Sociology classes host disability expo and dinner

Category:  News
Wednesday, November 9th, 2016 at 5:41 PM
Sociology classes host disability expo and dinner by Hannah Webster
Photo: Hannah Webster

Last Wednesday, Nov. 2, students from Edinboro University’s Sociology of Disability class hosted two events on campus. One group held a disability expo and another hosted a disability dinner at Van Houten Dining Hall.

According to the course catalog, SOC 275 is a course designed to introduce students to the sociological study of disability. This is a critical deconstruction of social, cultural, moral and political meanings that are associated with the modern day understanding of disabilities.

The students who ran the disability expo were Shanell Davis, Christine Vasui, Patrick Dewey, Haley Sulahian, and Bobby Gleason. Each person within the group has some form of disability.

In regards to choosing this particular event for their class project, Davis explained why they chose to host this particular event.

“I think we kind of noticed on campus that people don’t fully understand what it’s like. So we thought it would be a good idea to try
it out for themselves. Even though we have challenges, we can do the same things everyone else can do, [but it’s] just a little harder,” Davis said.

Vasui added, “People have their own judgments on what they think a disability is and what they think our challenges are, so they just can see it for themselves instead of just seeing us and making judgments.”

Dewey also commented on why the class chose to do the expo.

“I think for me personally, it was an opportunity for people to see what we go through on a daily basis and our challenges, but also gain insight on how we get through those and ultimately make our disability into less of a barrier — less of a defining characteristic — and just be the unique people that we are.”

Gleason, a senior social work major, explained that he wanted people to become more aware of the disabilities that he and his peers experience.

“The purpose is to give people a taste of what it’s like to have these disabilities and to illustrate some of the challenges that we have. Like some of the fine motor skill issues, some things with verbal communication, dyslexia, and all those sorts of things that people don’t really think of or aren’t really aware of,” Gleason said.

Events at the expo included a dyslexia puzzle, where students had to look in a mirror and follow a path; a fine motor skills game, in which students had to pick up three small items with gloves; and a speech activity that involved putting marshmallows in your mouth while trying to present a speech.

“I’m hoping people will see what challenges we face everyday, not even people in wheelchairs, but people with learning disabilities. People who can’t see as well as others. It’s a new experience for them,” Davis said.

Stasia Lesoski, a junior early childhood and special education major, expressed that she felt it would be very difficult to live with a disability.

“I guess our campus isn’t that disability friendly, like we could be more friendly,” Sebusch said after reflecting on adapting to our fellow students’ needs.

Gleason added in regards to the experience, “I want people to just enjoy themselves while learning something. The point is to make it fun and entertaining but at the same time you’re learning something.”

He continued, “I think it’s something that we need to bring awareness to. I think we need to do something to give people the urge to listen and think of these issues. I think doing it in a fun way and [making] it entertaining is the best way to do it, especially with this generation of people.”

Aside from hosting various activity stations, the group also planned a Chinese auction and raffled off gift cards. The money the team raised went to benefit the Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA).

Following the disability expo, a second group, from Dr. Lee Williams’ Sociology of Disability class, decided to put on a disability dinner.

The group consisted of Jordyn Parmenter, Emily Parolari, Annie Dayich, Audrey Kline, Josh Guarriello, Rachel Pierce, and Makaela Rust. Members of this group are sociology, social work, psychology, or human services majors.

“We thought it would be nice to open people’s eyes and their perspectives on people with disabilities, because they can choose to have one (a disability) tonight, but the people who have disabilities can not,” said Pierce, a senior human services major.

Guarriello, a junior social work major, explained that many people responded positively to their assigned disability, and to the event as a whole.

Upon arriving to Van Houten Dining Hall for dinner, students were greeted with these individuals and asked if they wanted
to experience what it was like to eat with a disability. While others declined, many students took the plunge by accepting a disability to have throughout the entirety of their meal.

Disabilities that were assigned ranged from blindness, loss of hearing, loss of a limb, conjoined twins, and a variety of speech disorders.

Williams explained that he simply assigned his students an activity that would raise consciousness, public awareness, and social action.

“I really tried not at all to influence them and just turned it out there,” Williams said. “I thought both were masterful and wonderful things for students to be doing on our campus.”

After hosting an in-class review session of both events, Williams and his students concluded that both events produced a good outcome. The class’s only critique was to do more outreach throughout the campus community in preparation for the event.

“In a class like this, this wasn’t the skill set the students thought they were going to help pick up when they came into a sociology
of disability class. I felt like it really did go ultimately well and I think our momentum is just heading in the direction of regularizing these types of events,” Williams said. 

Hannah Webster is a social media editor for The Spectator. 

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