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UNK students, alumni prepare for various Disability Awareness Week activities

By Sydnee Bartruff

As the Collegians for Integration and Accessibility puts on various activities for Disability Awareness Week, students are busy preparing for the shows, handing out flyers across campus and educating individuals about disabilities. Others make the familiar route back to campus.

For the 25th anniversary of Disability Awareness Week, CIA brought in several UNK alumni to talk about their disabilities along with their experience with both the student organization and the Disability Service Office.

“Talking about their disabilities in front of their peers—it takes a lot of guts,” said David Brandt, the disability services coordinator. “But I think it’s important. They are community here.”

Many of the alumni who came back are working as professionals, attending or have attended graduate school, or working in the medical field or teaching.

“When we think of a disability, we think of wheelchair and visually impaired, we think of hearing impaired—the obvious disabilities. You don’t think of the students with anxiety and depression.”

– David Brandt

For Disability Awareness Week in the past, the student organization has had panels involving current students who have spoke about their disability. This year is the first time alumni have come back to share their experiences after graduating.

Over his 16 years of being active with the organization, Brandt says his duty involves working with students to get their accommodations that they need to be successful in housing and academics.

“When we think of a disability, we think of wheelchair and visually impaired, we think of hearing impaired—the obvious disabilities,” Brandt said. “You don’t think of the students with anxiety and depression.”

Currently Brandt is working with 300 students. That number grows each year by about 10%, said Brandt.

The disabilities range anywhere from students with learning disabilities, bipolar disorders to veterans with PTSD.

Anxiety and depression, however, are a big part of Brandt’s cases.

“It’s a huge problem with our youth today, but we are here to serve them, we are here to help them, to be able to navigate the system and do well and do well in system,” Brandt said.

While previous students made their way back for the panel, UNK Alumni Panel of Abilities, past presidents and directors of the organization also came back for the panel and other events for the week.

“To me, (25 years) means that there has been a lot of time and effort set aside to promote integration and accessibility on the campus, for the students and ultimately for the broader community,” said past president Tim Hanley.

Hanley was a member of Collegians for Integration and Accessibility group in 2000 and president of the organization from 2003-2004.

While there are many presentations to attend throughout the week regarding various topics, Tasha Schuh is this year’s headliner. Each year the students in CIA work together to find a find somebody with a disability to share their unique story. 

Paralyzed from the neck down, Schuh is an inspirational speaker from Wisconsin and will share her story with UNK Thursday at 7 PM in the NSU Ponderosa Room.

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