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Awareness week shines light on disability services
The Brandon Sun - 12/5/2018
A student who helped organize the first Access Awareness Week at Brandon University is hoping it will help people discover the resources they have available on campus.
Whitney Hodgins, who has autism, said she benefited from learning about what was available and wants to educate others.
"It's definitely taken a lot of stress off my shoulders," she said.
On Tuesday, Hodgins was helping out at a resources booth that was set up to give students an idea of what assistance was out there.
"We have Brandon University counselling services for those with mental health needs," she said. "We also have student accessibility services, which is an office that handles students with disabilities in terms of helping them acquire accommodations while going to school. That could be a note taker, that could be alternative formatting if you need extra time on exams."
The services available are not just for students, but can also be for other people in the community, Hodgins said.
"That's something that people with disabilities always think about, is 'How am I going to get a job? How am I going to go to school? How am I going to address all those barriers once I'm in the workplace?'" she said. "This kind of says, 'You do have support there, don't worry. We'll figure it out together.'"
So far, current students and faculty members have all shown interest in finding out more about what's available, she said. The event is also open to the public to attend, for those outside the school community who might be interested in learning more.
"There might be parents who have children in high school," she said. "My mom would have killed to have this opportunity when I was in high school; to have access to resources that she didn't know about."
To be at Brandon University where there is now an Access Awareness Week was refreshing, said Megan Linton, a student at the University of Winnipeg and national disability justice commissioner for the Canadian Federation of Students.
"Disabled students both have the opportunity to learn more, and abled folks are able to learn more and destigmatize and continue to unpack their own ableism and also learn more about the resources," Linton said. "The fact is, everyone is going to experience a disability at some time in their life, so it's important to learn more about it now as opposed to when it happens."
Access Awareness Week will continue today at the university, with a presentation on The Accessibility for Manitobans Act from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. at the Louis Riel Room in McMaster Hall. In the evening, Finding Nemo will be played at the Knowles Douglas Students' Union Centre from 6:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m., followed by a discussion about the portrayal of disability in the movie.
For Access Awareness Week next year, Hodgins said she'll be getting feedback from students about what they would like to see.
"I'll probably do a consultation right after and see what they would like to see change and what they would like to see happen next year," she said. "I'm sure there's plenty of ways we can expand and make things bigger and better."
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