Celebrating Differences with Disability Awareness Week

by Micaela Ricaforte

In recognition of Disability Awareness Month, the Learning Enrichment Center (LEC) dedicates the week of October 15-19 to raising awareness about those living with disabilities. Events include a student panel, information tables, and an open house.

The LEC works with students of all disabilities and tailors their accommodations to suit specific needs, including assistive technology, tutoring, and health professional recommendations. The LEC’s goal for Disability Awareness Week is to highlight the diverse scope of disabilities-—whether physical, mental, invisible, or learning-related. “We hope to equip the APU community with tools and knowledge,” said Kaylin Morford, LEC academic services coordinator.

On Tuesday, the LEC will host a panel in the Los Angeles Pacific Center (LAPC) from 3-4 p.m. where APU students with disabilities will share their experiences. Anna Cayot, who lives with reflex sympathetic dystrophy (RSD), postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS), and Ehlers-Danlos syndrome (EDS), said that beyond the chronic pain she deals with, she wants those she interacts with to understand that she is not different from them. “For me, I have good days and bad days,” she said. “Sure, I can’t do a lot things that other people can do, but I'm still a person. When approaching someone with a disability, understand that we are still people.”

Erin Gaffney, a traumatic brain injury (TBI) survivor, will speak on the panel. “Because I have TBI and chronic pain syndrome caused by damage to my nervous system, I get a lot of headaches and am partially blind in one eye. I have issues with my processing speed and short-term memory from the injury I sustained,” he said. “College makes up the majority of my day-to-day life. But because of my TBI, I can't always follow discussions in class and I can’t stay for long in a busy or overwhelming place, which makes in-person chapel attendance very rare for me. Thankfully, I’m able to have several academic accommodations through the LEC.”

APU’s disability accommodations include service animals and emotional support animals. LEC Director Heather McClure will give a workshop on how to interact with someone with a service or support animal on Wednesday afternoon.

All of these events lead up to an open house event in the LAPC on Thursday evening. The LEC will partner with Club Strong, the American Sign Language Club, and APU’s own Diversity Mosaic Experience. At the open house, students can respond to what they learned about those with disabilities this week by sharing their new thoughts on the word “disability.”

“To students with disabilities, sharing their experiences and receiving support can make all the difference. Part of loving someone who has a disability is learning from them,” Morford said. “There are a wide variety of stories and experiences beneficial to learn and recognize God in the lives of those with disabilities.”

For more information, visit the Learning Enrichment Center or contact (626) 815-3849 or lec@apu.edu.