Opening session kicks off Ability Awareness Week

On+Monday+Oct.+3%2C+annual+Ability+Awareness+Week+began+to+encourage+and+inform+the+UTEP+community+about+living+with+disabilities.+
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Opening session kicks off Ability Awareness Week

On Monday Oct. 3, annual Ability Awareness Week began to encourage and inform the UTEP community about living with disabilities.

On Monday Oct. 3, annual Ability Awareness Week began to encourage and inform the UTEP community about living with disabilities.

Claudia Hernandez

On Monday Oct. 3, annual Ability Awareness Week began to encourage and inform the UTEP community about living with disabilities.

Claudia Hernandez

Claudia Hernandez

On Monday Oct. 3, annual Ability Awareness Week began to encourage and inform the UTEP community about living with disabilities.

Mariana Rodriguez, Contributor

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With over 10 different educational lectures, seminars and events UTEP began its annual Ability Awareness Week Monday, October 3. The university has dedicated an entire week to bring attention toward students and individuals with disabilities since 2008. The events are aimed at educating and encouraging participation in changing the climate around the word “disability.”

Neelam Agarwal, assistant director for the Center for Accommodations and Support Services, has been actively trying to change the conversation.

“Disabilities are not a taboo,” Agarwal said. “One out of five people have disabilities.”

The opening session started with a tribute to Prince, a well-known artist with a little-known chronic illness, who demonstrated that anything is possible, even for those with disabilities. The music set the tone for the rest of the session and the week.

The amount of opportunities at UTEP for students with disabilities is growing. The Center for Accommodations and Support Services aids students in living a campus life that is non-restrictive and not defined by their disability.

“Wherever UTEP goes, we follow,” Agarwal said. “Our role is to level the playing field. We are only the facilitators.”

When the center is not aiding students in campus life, they are aiming to inspire others to bring awareness to visible and invisible disabilities.

Awareness Ability Week not only brings disabilities to the front lines of campus life, it also aims at inspiring students into become contributing members of the community. Restrictions such as transportation for after-school activities and organizations, encouraging students to speak out about issues on campus and inspiring high schoolers to apply to college are just some of the topics that CASS and the Annual Ability Awareness Week are trying to address.

“Talent is everywhere. It crosses gender, the social and the economical. What isn’t everywhere is the ability to develop that talent.” said UTEP president Diana Natalicio at the opening ceremony.

This week hopes to produce leaders, not only at the university, but in the community. Ability Awareness Week is aimed at people with disabilities, including students at UTEP. By opening up opportunities in the community, students at UTEP benefit and expand on those experiences.

According to the Helen A. Keller Institute, students with disabilities are 8 percent less likely to attend college because of the lack of confidence instilled by the community. To facilitators such as Agarwal, producing events such as Ability Awareness Week will change the climate around students with disabilities and will allow the number of student leaders with disabilities to change.

Educational seminars, resource fairs and basketball games aim to help change the conversation.

“All of you are very much a part of the opportunity story at UTEP,” said Natalicio.

Ability Awareness week ends Friday, Oct. 7. For more information about the week’s events, visit http://sa.utep.edu/cass/events/ability-awareness-week/.

Mariana Rodriguez may be reached at [email protected]

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