Ever tried to steer a wheelchair through a maze of orange cones?
Students in power chairs might not have to navigate an actual obstacle course every day, but they do face many challenges. So do blind students and students with cognitive impairments. The Abilities Expo at Wright State University wants able-bodied people to experience those challenges too, in the interest of education.
But lectures and keynote addresses won’t figure in the expo on Feb. 27. It’s all about fun. Participants will get the chance to navigate that maze of cones in a power chair or don glasses that simulate blindness and various cognitive impairments. They’ll view videos that show the world through the eyes of someone with autism. They’ll be challenged to push a manual wheelchair across campus and back.
Dominick Evans, director of disability affairs for Student Government, is the driving force behind the expo. He sees the event as a way to open able-bodied people’s minds to the lives that disabled people live.
“We desire friendship, love, companionship, an education, a sense of adventure,” he said. “Pretty much everything anyone else desires in life. We just have to come up with more creative ways to attain those desires.”
Evans’ mission of education is what led him to run for Student Government. He said that college students are the perfect audience for something like the Abilities Expo. “Students are still young enough to listen to reason and change their ideas, but are progressive enough to take these lessons and apply them to life outside of college when they graduate.”
The ideas that Evans is aiming to change are, he said, deeply ingrained in our society: that people living with disabilities are somehow less than people without. But the truth is, said Evans, disabled people are just like everyone else.
“Disability is the only minority group any of us can join at any moment in our lives,” he said. “It knows no bounds in terms of race, religion or gender.”
Evans plans to bring attention to disabilities after he graduates too. He is studying in the motion pictures department at Wright State, and he plans to film at the Expo, collecting before and after reactions from people who attend. Eventually, he hopes to create a documentary about disabilities.
“It is time for people to care about disability. While their acceptance, tolerance and respect can make a difference in the lives of those with disabilities now,” he said.
The expo is sponsored by Student Government and the Access Center for Independent Living. It will take place on Feb. 27, from 9 a.m. To 5 p.m., in the Student Union Apollo Room.