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January 27, 2003

UF holds first ABLE conference

From: - 27 Jan 2003

By Dana Israel
Alligator Writer

There was not a single sound coming out of either person’s mouth, yet the two women seated in the Reitz Union were speaking very clearly to one another.

While focusing on each other’s quickly moving hands, UF sophomore Ashley Shugar and Christy Wolfe took part in a sign language conversation – one of many that took place at the Awareness By Leadership and Education Conference on Saturday.

The first statewide conference for college students with disabilities brought about 150 participants from seven universities.

“It fascinates me to watch people sign and I like being a part of it,” Shugar said..

The conference’s keynote speech by Dr. Roslyn Rosen also began People Awareness Week, which will continue through Friday.

Rosen was formerly the vice president for academic affairs at Gallaudet University, the world’s only four-year liberal arts institution that is taught entirely in American Sign Language.

“When we talk about curb cuts and ramps, who uses those?” signed Rosen to an audience of more than 150 people. “More able bodied people use those than people with wheelchairs.”

Rosen said ever since the Americans with Disabilities Act passed, people should be taking advantage of how communities have changed.

“In the 1960s, the Civil Rights Movement began, and in the 1970s was women’s rights. After that came people with disabilities, and we have been fighting for that since,” Rosen said.

Vicky Reyes, a senior at Florida International University, said students with disabilities should accept their conditions in order to excel in other areas.

“Many universities seem to have similar problems with students not wanting to be labeled with having a disability,” Reyes said. “By networking we can try to help each other and broaden our services. My main goal is to get students more involved in school, but it’s hard to reach out to the people who don’t want to be labeled.”

ABLE2 was presented by the Student Government DisAbility Affairs Cabinet and organized by cabinet director Joshua Pila, a political science and public relations dual major.

“Usually when people hear about someone having a disability, they think of wheelchairs and handicapped parking spaces,” Pila said.

Last year UF had a Disability Awareness Week, but this year they decided to hold a conference for college students with disabilities, Pila said.

“The deaf community is one of the most successful communities of people with disabilities for making themselves heard, so to speak, and moving forward,” Pila said.

© 2003