JOLIET – Joliet Junior College recently held its Disability Awareness Day event to support and empower students with disabilities.
The event was held from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Wednesday – the same day the JJC Disability Awareness Club was chartered at the college, said Mindy Diaz, the club's sponsor and coordinator for the JJC's Student Accommodations and Resources, or StAR, office.
Diaz said the club planned and helped facilitate the event.
“I can’t even begin to explain how proud of them I was,” she said.
Disability Awareness Day is a joint initiative of the club, StAR and the Will-Grundy Center for Independent Living and coincides with October as a month to raise national awareness about disabilities, including for those in the workforce with a disability.
This year, National Disability Employment Awareness month recognizes the role disability plays in workforce diversity, and the theme is Inclusion Works, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.
NDEA dates back to 1945, when Congress declared the first week of October “National Employ the Physically Handicapped Week.”
Disability Awareness Day was held to demonstrate technology that helps make JJC accessible to students, to help students understand the needs of those with disabilities and to recognize their potential.
The event attracted more than 230 participants, Diaz said. It included booths and panel discussions by students and faculty with disabilities. Diaz said one of the great parts of the event was professionals talking about their disability and accommodation needs.
She said it was nice for students to see those professionals and know they can obtain a college degree and career with a disability.
“You don’t have to be Superman to do that,” she said. “It was a pretty amazing day.”
Diaz said Disability Awareness Day is important because it allows students the opportunity to feel empowered with regards to their disability.
“It promotes awareness with other students on campus. It destigmatizes disability on campus,” Diaz said.
She said she was grateful to be at an institution such as JJC that feels disability awareness is important and recognizes it.
JJC hosted an event in the same vein before with the Anti-Stigma Symposium in April that addressed common stigmas and focused on mental health topics.