Home Education International Day for Persons with Disabilities commemorated for first time at OU

International Day for Persons with Disabilities commemorated for first time at OU

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Several organizations gathered Tuesday evening in an event to commemorate the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, and raise awareness for issues for persons with disabilities for the first time at Ohio University.

Organizations from around campus and throughout the city were represented with informational booths or guest speakers. Many OU students and faculty spoke about living with a disability, including keynote speaker Darrell Purdy.

“Living with disabilities is often challenging, confusing and occasionally messy,” said Purdy, who works in the Office of Accessibility and has a rare syndrome that affects his functional abilities.

Purdy told a story about an experience he had as a graduate student helping students with disabilities. He said they spent one day telling each other about their dreams for the future.

“Each person said to the rest of the group, ‘I want to have a job where I make a decent salary and I’m making a difference. I want to be married and have a family, and some even said they want to have the white picket fence and have a house, and I want to make a difference. I want to be stronger than my disability,’” he said to the crowd of about 30.

However, he said the real moment of realization for him was when he was working with one of these students named Bill, and had to tell him that because of his disability the school he was attending could not continue to support him.

“He’s crying, and this is going to challenge my masculinity a little, but I was crying too,” Purdy said. “He was one of the guys who said ‘Darrell, I want a job, I want a family and I want to make a difference,’ and what I was telling him was, at least in the minds of many, that was never going to be possible because his disability was too big.”

“I hate when disability wins, and disability has been winning for many years,” he said.

Other members of community organizations spoke, including People First and Athens Commission on Disabilities.

The event also maintained an international aspect, as international students shared their experiences with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Palestinians, as well as students from Sierra Leone and Syria, explained how PTSD affects the civilian men, women and children in their home countries. Students also showed interviews they had conducted and recorded on a video call with people from England and Egypt who work with people with disabilities.

Dr. Jenny Nelson, the professor of the class that organized the event, said she would define disability as “anything that society cannot accommodate.” Nelson said her eyes were opened to issues for people with disabilities after she was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease. Because of her condition, Nelson said she has functional difficulties more than the tremors usually associated with Parkinson’s Disease.

The event, organized by a research class in the Communication and Development program, is the first in what Nelson said she hopes in an annual occurrence. She said she decided to do something, although she did not know what yet, after she went to a committee meeting about persons with disabilities on campus.

“It was so boring. Oh god, and people would talk about something and they would be like ‘Well, next time, or next month, we’ll meet again and we’ll talk about it again,’ and I couldn’t stand it,” Nelson said. “So I walked out, and I literally walked into my class and said ‘We’re going to do something.’”

Nelson wanted to emphasize the importance of action on this issue.

“All change for women, all change for African Americans, all change for gays didn’t come from people who tabled sh*t… and so I wasn’t going to let that happen,” she said.

Correction: An earlier edition of this article incorrectly labeled Palestinians as Israelis. 

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