Disability Awareness Week Sparks Interest and Action

by University Relations

The university hosted its second annual Disability Awareness Week, founded on the principles of Imago Dei (the image of God) and Azusa Pacific’s biblical perspective on diversity, February 27- March 4, 2017. Various campus events helped the APU community explore how and why society tends to marginalize those with disabilities, how to recognize it, and how to prevent it. Cosponsored by several departments, the weeklong event educated nondisabled people and gave a voice to those with disabilities (more than 5 percent of APU’s student population), including a platform from which to share their concerns.

The week’s events included “Empowering Voices: Disability and the Student Experience,” a student leadership chapel featuring guest speaker Travis Davis; “Disability Perspectives and Liberal Arts Education,” a faculty/staff luncheon with Amos Yong, Ph.D.; and “Perspectives from the Inside,” a faculty/staff/student luncheon and guest panel presentation. New this year, STRONG, a group founded to support those with invisible illnesses such as fibromyalgia and even undiagnosed conditions, displayed a photo exhibit in Seven Palms Amphitheater titled “But you don’t look sick…” to increase awareness and understanding.

Disability Awareness Week instilled participants with a broader understanding of the diversity within the disability population and a new perspective on those with less-obvious disabilities, such as diverse learners, parents of children with disabilities, and others who do not fit traditional categories. The event generated valuable dialogue about how the APU community can continue to reframe its consideration of this population and intentionally view one another through a lens that more closely reflects the Kingdom of God.

The event complements the long-term efforts of APU’s Learning Enrichment Center, which has come alongside students with disabilities for 39 years and offers four comprehensive academic support programs for students, including Disability Services. The numerous resources and services, based on the individual learning needs of each student, include advocacy, academic and technical support, registration assistance, testing accommodations, assessment referral, liaison with university academic service areas, liaison with community agencies, and more. Disability Awareness Week substantially supports APU’s resolve to appreciate uniqueness and pursue Christ-like unity.