Recently, a patron asked us if we were aware of any colleges and universities that hold autism spectrum disorder (ASD) awareness campaigns on their campuses. We broadened the question to disability awareness campaigns and spoke with several Disability Services Offices at a wide variety of campuses across the country and this is what they told us:
- Some colleges/universities help raise awareness as part of their local community.
- Others do disability specific events throughout the year. For example:
- Columbus State University in Georgia participated in Light It Up Blue for Autism this past April. The university held the event on campus, opened the event to the public, different organizations set up tables to share information, and there were refreshments, activities for children and students, and music.
- Bellevue College holds several events throughout the year including:
- The Autism Acceptance Video Game Tournament, which is held during Washington State’s April Autism Acceptance Month
- “Ask Me – I’m Autistic” button campaign: Students, faculty, and staff wear buttons with the statement “Ask Me – I’m Autistic”. Announcements were sent throughout campus reminding people that the best person to ask about autism is a person with autism.
- Bellevue’s Disability Resource Center also hosts Disability Awareness/Disability Justice events, including a Disability Justice professional development day.
- Some colleges and universities are moving away from the traditional disability awareness campaigns. Instead, they are developing programs that have a focus on diversity and social justice.
- Adam Meyer, Director of Student Disability Services at the University of Central Florida, told us, “Our office has done a great job this year in thinking of some programs that have more of a diversity focus and social justice focus. We are looking at ways in which we can highlight the barriers of the environment, including the attitudes of others toward people with disabilities. We are looking at creative ways in which we can bring the voices of people with disabilities alive in a thoughtful way. We want people who encounter these programs to ideally stop and think, to wonder, to reconsider how they perhaps think about disability.”
- Many colleges are taking innovative approaches to disability awareness:
- Highlighting that students with disabilities are everywhere, are involved, and are doing everything with a poster campaign showing that “Students with disabilities are:
- On the swim team.”
- Majoring in Anthropology.”
- Working as an RA.”
- Are a Presidential Scholar.”
- Holding campus discussions around the social model of disability.
- Conducting forums for Disability Awareness in general or for a specific disability (i.e.; for Autism Awareness, one school held a forum in which students with ASD, experts, and parents talked about autism and answered questions from the audience). The Schuster Student Success Center at Columbus State University has held such forums, which involved community organizations that work with people with autism and their families. Through these forums, Joy Norman, M.S., NCC, Director of Disability Services, has been able to initiate conversations with potential students who thought that attending college was only a dream.
If you would like to learn more about what your local colleges and universities are doing and about disability services in those particular campuses, please contact that college or university’s Disability Services Office.
We also recommend watching Rethinking College, a documentary made by Think College on the experiences of college students with intellectual disabilities.