The Daily Gamecock

Student voice disability concerns

EMPOWER aims to promote understanding on campus


In honor of Disability Awareness Month, EMPOWER held a student-led dialogue in hopes of teaching others how to treat students with disabilities. The campus organization’s mission is to educate students and faculty on social issues and seek social justification. During Thursday’s dialogue, students found out that disability is a matter of perception. Anyone can have a disability, and no one may know.

True or false questions led into a discussion on to how to treat those with disabilities in social environments.

Diversity peer educator and fourth-year biology student Jalavender Clowney said students are not expected to know how to treat those with disabilities, but when approaching them, there are many factors to keep in mind. One should avoid asking personal questions about someone’s disability when first meeting him or her before a personal relationship is established, Clowney said.

Fourth-year English student David Adelman said he thinks many students take day-to-day abilities for granted and can afford to be a little more courteous.

“Let students with wheelchairs go first on the elevator,” Adelman said. “I know it’s a congested environment, but if we could, just think a little more.”

Clowney added to also keep in mind that not all deaf people read lips, and that when speaking to a deaf person, it is important to make eye contact. Writing down what one has to say can also help a deaf person feel at ease in conversation.

Adelman expressed disabled students’ collective wish to be treated equally, without the associated assumption that they are unapproachable.

“Just because someone is in a wheelchair does not mean something is wrong with their brain,” Adelman said. “I have a brain, and there’s nothing wrong with it. If you want to talk to me, direct the question to me.”

The audience spoke out on the terms “retarded” and “special” during the dialogue, common labels used by students without disabilities.

“People with disabilities would like to be just people,” Clowney said.

Students have the opportunity to educate themselves about disabilities and society through EMPOWER’s social events and dialogues. Clowney hopes to continue to educated students and everyday issues.