Student organizations and campus resources gathered at Bruin Plaza on Monday to kick off Disability Awareness Week.
Representatives from the Undergraduate Students Association Council Facilities Commission, UCLA’s Disabilities and Computing Program and the UCLA Center for Accessible Education were among the organizations that participated in DAW, an annual series of events on campus intended to raise awareness for people with disabilities.
Travis Lee, co-chair of the UCLA Committee on Disabilities, tabled at the DAW fair, one of the first campus events of the week. He said he has a strong personal connection to the cause.
“In the past, we’ve had a really hard time getting traction around disability programming,” Lee said. “A lot of it has to do with students and staff and faculty who are just not taking disability seriously, or they’re just not well-organized around the disability culture and disability systems and support systems we have here.”
UCOD partnered with the Facilities Commission in order to increase its outreach to undergraduate students to encourage them to join the Committee on Disabilities, Lee said.
“We’re making decisions at (the committee meetings) that impact students directly, things around transportation, learning management system, technology, things of that nature that we all talk about in that meeting,” Lee said. “These are important meetings for students.”
Michelle Nguyen, project director for the Facilities Commission’s “Access on Board” initiative and a fourth-year molecular, cell and developmental biology student, was tabling alongside Lee at the fair. She said one of the goals of the fair was to raise awareness for disability in a fun and accessible manner.
“I think this is the first time we’ve seen a lot of collaboration between the staff and other groups on campus to put together an event that really brings awareness to people with disabilities on campus,” Nguyen said.
There were also groups at the fair from adaptive recreation programs, academic resources and student clubs, Nguyen said.
Adaptive sports are meant to provide recreational sport opportunities to students, faculty, staff and community members with disabilities.
Michael Garafola, the adaptive program coordinator for UCLA Recreation, leads a group of students, staff, faculty and community members in wheelchair basketball every Tuesday. Wheelchair basketball is open to students with or without disabilities.
“We just want to make sure that students with disabilities have the opportunities to participate in sports and recreation,” Garafola said.
Claudia Huey, a fourth-year mathematics and economics student, said she first played adaptive sports in college after contacting Garafola.
“I just really like the people here and I want my friends to meet these people, so I always invite them out, and I’m like, ‘come try out wheelchair sports,’ because I feel like, if you don’t try it out here, then you’ll probably never get the chance again,” Huey said.
Garafola said he is trying to start a competitive sports program at UCLA and is looking to increase student interest in the sport.
“If you’re a student with a disability, reach out to find out more about opportunities for adaptive sports and recreations,” Garafola said.
Events this week also include a disability town hall where students can share their experiences about the barriers the community faces and have a space to advocate for themselves, Nguyen said.
The town hall will take place Wednesday from 6 to 8 p.m. in the Bruin Reception Room.