WIU "reframes" the conversation on disabilities

WIU students learn about a new way to think about disability in America.

"The disabled population is the only minority group that any of us can join at any time."

That's a message from Gretchen Steil Weiss the organizer of Wednesay's Disability Culture Day at Western Illinois University.

The goal of the event is to change our thinking of disability from accommodation to social justice.

"When we enact the social justice model we plan, we plan to encounter disability," Steil Weiss said. "So we make our programs and environments accessible to everyone."

A new way to think about how we design public spaces is called Universal Design .

"We're just trying to make sure the environment is equally accessible to everybody," WIU architechtural superintendent Michaell Hott said. "Regardless of a disability or without a disability. So that's the whole thing about Universal Design to reduce the stigma of "Oh I have to sit in this seat or I have to do this. No, no. Universal Design is making everything accessible to the greatest extent possible."

Therapeutic Recreation uses activities like golf, as an alternative way to rehabilitate the injured or disabled.

"You can use golf in order to help somebody get back to an optimum level of wellness," gradute student Jessica Dawson said. "You can use golf to help people stand up straighter, help with mobility issues and things like that."

Stephanie Wilson has a contagious smile, but she also deals with challenges that are not visible to the naked eye.

She says its important to remove the stigma attached to how most people think of disabilities.

"If you're in that desk in the front of the classroom you may not want to sit there," Wilson said. "But if you have a physical disability to where you can't sit in an attached desk, then there's nowhere else for you to sit. And that makes people stick out it makes people feel different."

Gretchen Steil Weiss says that the message she wants people to take from the event is a simple one.

"We have a collective responsibility to our fellow humans," Steil Weiss said. "You know we're all in this together."