UTPA celebrates Disabilities Awareness Month
Contact: Amanda Perez, Intern 381-2741
Posted: 10/16/2009
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The University of Texas-Pan American hosted the fifth annual Disability Awareness Days (DAD) October 12-15 to let people know of the help and services available and to spread awareness.

The University's Disability Services Office, the Drug and Alcohol Abuse Program, Workforce Solutions and Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services have joined forces to celebrate October as Disabilities Month with a series of events and activities.

Pictured is Elias Garcia teaching self defense techniques to Judith Perez, coordinator of UTPA's Disability Awareness Days.

"There are so many health issues that encompass disabilities, so our idea was to highlight and showcase events that can teach our University population about disabilities and how to better understand and accept those with disabilities," said Maureen McClain, associate director of the Office of Disability Services. "We aim to eliminate prejudice by eliminating ignorance."

The events kicked off Monday, Oct. 12 with a proclamation from Edinburg Mayor, Richard H. Garcia, followed by a community agency fair on Tuesday. Local agencies, such as Workforce Solutions, Rio Grande Valley Council, Valley Association of Independent Living and Al-Anon distributed information related to disabilities and disability services.

"We hope to break barriers and give a better understanding on disabilities because they play a part in everybody's life," said Casey Pebley, project director for Workforce Solutions.

DAD continued through the week with an Assistive Technology and Job Fair, a self-defense class with emphasis for individuals with disabilites, a wheelchair scavenger hunt, and concluded with a Disabilities Health Screening and Education Day, which featured a special presentation from Cameron Clapp, a triple amputee, who discussed living life with a disability and how it is possible to successfully overcome it.

"There are so many disabilities, such as mental, physical and emotional, which can be acquired in life," said Judith Perez, vocational rehab counselor at the Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services. "So it's essential to educate people on how disabilities impact lives and how to communicate with those who are disabled."

The passion behind DAD comes from the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990 and the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments of 2008. ADA establishes a clear and comprehensive prohibition of discrimination on the basis of disability.

"The passion for DAD comes from ADA, but also from within," McClain said. "I love what I do and I enjoy listening to people and helping them reach their full potential because everybody has the right to be successful."

ADA will celebrate 20 years in 2010 and the University will also join in that milestone. McClain said there are big plans in the works for a bigger and better celebration of DAD.

"Our hope is that everyone who participates in our events will benefit from the experience and learn more about the disability population who are our co-workers, neighbors and friends," McClain said.