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Students educate others about disabilities during Disabilities Awareness Month

David Garcia Project participant completes an activity that simulates having a disability.

This Disabilities Awareness Month, senior Naomi Evans is eager to make a difference for people with disabilities through the David Garcia Project.

“(The David Garcia Project) helps students see different perspectives and makes it easier to include others with disabilities in everyday life,” Evans said. 

The David Garcia Project is a Mary Ellen Brandell Volunteer Center program that provides learning experiences facilitated by students for their peers. The program works to advocate for people with disabilities by educating Central Michigan University students through activities and reflections that simulate what it might be like to have various disabilities. 

A Disabilities Awareness Month open session is scheduled for 7-8:30 p.m. Monday, Oct. 23 in the Bovee University Center Lakeshore Room. 

The session will include an educational component allowing students to learn how government policies and other factors have helped and impacted students with disabilities. The session will also include conversations on how student with disabilities are taught nationwide and how special education can be improved. 

Evans, who is a student coordinator for the David Garcia Project, feels these sessions are important to Central Michigan University students.

It helps create an awareness that allows students to become more inclusive toward students with disabilities, she said. Students on campus who may not usually be able to participate in events could if other students put a greater effort into being inclusive, she added.

The program holds open sessions twice a month. When the student facilitators host sessions, they conduct simulations. These include a wheelchair and dyslexia simulation. The wheelchair simulation allows students to go to a ramp in the UC and use a wheelchair to be mobile. 

The dyslexia simulation requires students to read a piece of writing that resembles how someone with dyslexia would view words. Students are tested on the information they have retained. The simulations are meant to help CMU students understand how people with disabilities lead their everyday lives. 

Evans started working with the David Garcia Project as a facilitator. Facilitators are the students involved in the program who lead the activities. Evans is now a student coordinator that oversees the facilitators. She also advertises and holds training sessions with the facilitators.

She hopes to help bring awareness to disabilities and create a conducive environment for all to succeed.

Zachary Evans, a graduate assistant at the Volunteer Center, said another important event for learning about disabilities is Issue day on Saturday, Oct. 28. Issue Day is an annual social justice conference hosted by the Volunteer Center that focuses on exploring issues that affect the world, including disability awareness. The conference begins at 9 a.m. in the UC.