Students encourage disability awareness

Maria Brachelli

PowerPoint presentations, student-made movies and interested University students and faculty filled the upper level of the Connelly Center on Dec. 1, as students in the communication processes and disabilities course created an informative event to mark “A National Day of Disability.” This was the second annual exhibit.

Students spent several hours of the afternoon explaining to passers-by the fundamentals of equipment, building adaptations and hardships that disabled people encounter on a daily basis.

“The class has been a great experience for me, and it is one that I will remember because it hasn’t been solely about textbooks, lectures, or papers,” Lisa Libertucci, a junior in the communication processes and disabilities class, said.

“It has been about human nature and decency and hopefully, this class will continue to be offered for years to come.”

The course team includes Margie Kernicky, coordinator of Handicapped Encounter Christ (HEC) retreats, Dr. Paula Michael-Johnson of the communications department and Rev. Shawn Tracy, O.S.A., of Campus Ministry.

Students enrolled in the course are required to visit Inglis House at least two times and maintain an e-mail-based relationship with one of the six “mentors” for the class.

One display showed new adaptations of accessibility measures on local college campuses. In addition, the display evaluated how convenient these modifications were for the disabled.

Another display advertised HEC, a retreat for both people with physical disabilities and people sensitive to disability issues. Both Tracy and Kernicky have been actively involved with HEC for 26 years.

Students selected various prosthetic limbs, crutches and a wheelchair to show medical advancements throughout the years and explained the significance these advancements made in a disabled person’s life.

The students were accompanied by representatives from Inglis House, a wheelchair community of younger adults with disabilities.

The facility, which is located in Philadelphia, provides long-term nursing care for over 295 residents and adult day care participants.

Senior Michael Vega said, “The class opened my mind to things I was never aware of before.”

The main objective of the exhibit and the class is for students to “gain valuable insight within the disability culture,” said Kernicky.

Speaking for both herself and Tracy, Kernicky said, “We were both pleased with the exhibit. It was solely up to the students to be creative in putting what they learned from textbooks and from the presenters in the class into a display format.”