|Pictured at DADs Oct. 2 are UTPA students Marlene Gutierrez (front) and Brenda Borrego (back), both juniors majoring in general rehab, attempting to manipulate a wheelchair at a simulation designed to demonstrate the hardships presented to those with disabilities by inaccessible areas.|
Hundreds of students at The University of Texas-Pan American now have a greater awareness of the challenges those with disabilities have as well as their capabilities to accomplish things on their own thanks to the University's annual Disability Awareness Days (DADs) held Oct. 2-3 in the Student Union.
Scheduled during National Disability Employment month each year, DADs participants were able to obtain information on disability and related services from community organizations and resources and try their hand at hands-on simulations like a wheelchair obstacle course. They were also able to learn about the services and employment opportunities available to persons at UTPA and in the community, and get a greater understanding of the American with Disabilities Act laws.
Participants this year included nearly 50 junior and seniors with disabilities from three area high schools who also got to tour the campus.
DADs was organized by the UTPA Office of Disability Services, Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services, Veterans Service Center, Counseling and Psychological Services and the Student Government Association. Volunteers included students in the Graduate Rehabilitation Counseling Association, the Rehab Club and other student organizations.
Denise Avitia, M.S., CRC, disabilities counseling specialist II, said she appreciated the assistance of the volunteers and commended the two student speakers who, she said, "had the courage to speak about the challenges they faced and how they overcame them." The student speakers were Raymond Salas, who is pursuing a master's in guidance counseling, and Lilliana Maya, a U.S. Navy veteran.
The disability services office seeks to foster independence and self-advocacy while ensuring that students with disabilities are able to participate in the full range of college experiences. Their services include adaptive equipment, sign language and interpreter assistance, reader and note taking services, among others.