as reported in the Western Courier | article by Kim Castillo | Sept 19, 2014
This spring, Western Illinois University will host a campaign called “Reframing Disability” to raise awareness about people with disabilities. Most people think of disabilities as only being a physical state of being and have a poor perception based on what they have experienced. This can lead to neglect and ignorance toward other people with disabilities.
Matthew Lawson, president of Students for Disability Awareness, said that as a student with a disability he would like the community to understand that there are different kinds of disabilities and realize that being disabled can have multiple meanings.
“There are many people in the nation that have different types of disabilities, so a lot of people stereotype a certain disability and think of people with the disability in that view,” Lawson said.
Additionally, new accessible parking signage has been created and is being reviewed outside Illinois. The image is no longer stiff, resembling the immobility of the chair; rather, it depicts activity that represents the community with disabilities on alarger scale.
“I actually really like the new handicap sign they came out with,” Lawson said. “I think they should stick with that just because it gives kind of a better meaning to it. If you look at the old sign, to me, it looks like a person in a wheelchair, whereas in the new sign is really motivational and inspires others in the society. (It doesn't just) help the handicap community but, as a community of disabilities as a whole.”
Stephanie Williams, a student receptionist in Western’s Disability Resource Center, said that the change has contributed to a gained perception of people with disabilities among policy makers.
“This should have happened a long time ago,” Williams said. “As we start to shift from the medical model of disabilities to the social model, we see that things weren’t created to be necessarily accessible to everyone.”
Implementing fair treatment and coverage should have started when the buildings were made accessible for everyone. The sign strides for social change in the community, though it’s only the beginning.
“There is a lot more in the Disability Rights Movement that has to be done in order for people to start changing their minds.” But, I think that changing the sign is a start; it shows that people’s views are starting to change, but I think we have a lot more to do,” Williams said.
Changing things such as the accessible parking signs in parking lots and along streets are only just the beginning steps that Western will take during the spring semester.
Through student recommendations, the Disability Resource Center was able to effectively acknowledge specific issues. The main focus of the Disability Resource Center currently involves the adjustment of the alternative snow routes for the upcoming winter.