DisABILITY: ‘The opportunities are endless’

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This April De Montfort Students’ Union (DSU) partnered with DMU Disability, Advice and Support (DAS) to represent disability in a new light and create a more inclusive community with the DisABILITY.

The campaign - aimed to mirror World Autism Awareness Week 2019 - was designed to build awareness and inspire social inclusion within our University, sports clubs, societies and the local community. 

The campaign week included events such as a charity quiz night for the Matt Hampson Foundation, awareness workshops, crafts and games sessions. 

On Tuesday 2 April the ‘Get Busy Living Fair’ took place including stalls, interactive activities for all attendees, a bake sale and guest speakers Matt Hampson, DSU’s VP of Student Activities, members of the DAS team at the university and a number of disabled students.  

Sophie Connors, Activities Coordinator at DSU and organiser of some of the events said, “The biggest barriers people with disabilities encounter are other people. Society’s inability to see past the individual’s disability can limit them so much in their everyday lives, when really they should be open to as many opportunities as any able-bodied individual”.

Matt Hampson was paralysed from the neck down in an accident during an England Under 21 rugby training session. He set up his foundation to support others. Read more about his speech here.

Sophie goes on to say “Many people may feel awkward and are unable to speak openly about their perceptions of others and their abilities. Some people struggle to see past the disability and as a result feel like they have nothing to say, are unsure of how to word things and how to speak or interact with a disabled individual.

They are still human; they still speak the same language as us. A disability does not mean they are less intelligent or unable to understand what’s going on. They are human, and like the rest of the population, we all have different levels of ability, intelligence, different skills and interests. And disabled people are no different!”

DSU and DAS are encouraging people to talk about what they can do, what they are good at and most of all recognising that there are so many opportunities to embrace – together. The message that surrounded the campaign was to celebrate our differences and remember that all individuals have different interests and different needs while embracing the opportunities available. 

In most cases, disabled individuals face far more barriers in their lives than an able-bodied individual. They may have the same opportunities on paper, but the social stigmas and stereotypes that surround disability, limit their involvement and can prevent them from taking that big step. 

Something as simple as attending a student group meeting at university may be far more complex for a disabled person and factors such as limited access, the fear of being in a social situation, noise levels, unfamiliar places, unfamiliar activities, being hosted at a time outside of a person’s normal routine, travel arrangements, food and drink choices and so many more. 

Sophie added, “It is not just the activity itself that can be limiting and this is why the campaign was so important to work towards understanding people’s needs and to become more inclusive as a university and local community”. 

DSU wants everyone to celebrate what they can do rather than what they can't do with the DisABILITY campaign.

Overall the campaign was a great success and offered students and staff an opportunity to open their minds and engage in a challenging issue our society is facing.

Sophie said “It was amazing to see so many students and staff engaging with the DisABILITY campaign throughout the week. The 'Get Busy Living Fair' was the highlight of the week and I was astounded by the response from those that attended, and the response to the guest speakers.

Several attendees have since spoken about how much they learnt about the barriers some of our students face and how they see the world and their surroundings. I was really impressed with the support from all those involved and delighted to see the campaign end with such a positive impact”.

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