UND Today

University of North Dakota’s Official News Source

UND will host first Disability Awareness Day

Event will feature student posters, global expert on disability and discussions about inclusion and social justice issues

A global expert on disability, inclusion and social justice issues will be the keynote speaker at UND’s first Disability Awareness Day set for Monday in the Memorial Union, Ballroom CD.

Hosting the daylong event featuring Alan Bruce, CEO of Universal Learning Systems Ireland, is the Department of Inclusive Rehabilitation Sciences (formerly Rehabilitation & Human Services) within the College of Education & Human Development.

Lee Ann Williams
Lee Ann Williams.

“The goal is to have an interactive session and not just a talk,” said Lee Ann Williams, clinical assistant professor and program director of Inclusive Rehabilitation Sciences. “We wanted to have a longer session with Alan so people can interact with him, ask questions and share their thoughts.”

The speaker session will be from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., Williams said, and pizza and refreshments will be served.

“We’re hoping to have an amazing day, and education is going to be the key takeaway,” she said. “Disability is the one group that you can join at any time. It doesn’t care about demographics, and it does not discriminate. Everyone has a chance to be involved with this group, so it’s important to share our knowledge and experiences surrounding disability, social justice and inclusion.”

The day begins with students presenting posters on various disability topics from 9 to 11:15 a.m., and an Organization Showcase — featuring both student groups and other organizations that intersect with UND — will be from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m.

The idea for planning a special Disability Awareness Day on campus was sparked in a single Inclusive Rehabilitation Sciences classroom, Williams said, but it soon snowballed from just displaying student posters into a “huge event.”

“The target audience is really broad with this one,” Williams added. “Students, faculty, staff and other guests will gain a deeper understanding of disability topics not only on campus but worldwide. The pandemic especially impacted mental health, and disability issues are not going away. This will provide an open and honest dialogue, where discussions about disabilities are not taboo or behind closed doors.

“You never know who is struggling to try to understand a personal or private issue related to a disability, but this event might just allow that person to learn something new and know they are not alone.”