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Abilities Symposium turns 10, explores connections in disability and social justice

Stories | 10.11.22

Students, faculty, and staff seeking to explore the different ways that accessibility for people with disabilities can be a vital aspect of social justice work are invited to attend Adler University’s Tenth Annual Abilities Symposium: Disability and Social Justice on Oct. 26.

The in-person and virtual hybrid event includes several sessions exploring the role of advocacy in creating more accessible communities, the ableist attitudes, policies, and practices that are built into higher education, and the importance of student allyship.

“Disability directly impacts about 20% of the population at any point in time, with a much larger impact on families and communities,” said event co-creator Mary Drout, Ph.D., former program director of the Master of Arts in Counseling: Specializing in Clinical Rehabilitation Counseling program. “Students who attend can learn about individual experiences of disability, as well as strategies to create positive environmental change to mitigate disability challenges, in light of social justice.”

Symposium events include:

  • Keynote Talk: Disability and Social Justice from noon-12:50 p.m. CDT at the Chicago Campus’ Community Hall and virtually on Zoom. Rachel Arfa, commissioner of the Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities in Chicago, will present an overview of accessibility, defining social justice using an accessibility framework, and the role of advocacy in creating a more accessible city.
  • Expressive Arts and Social Justice from 1-1:50 p.m. CDT at the Chicago Campus’ Community Hall and via Zoom. This session will include presentations by artists Reveca Torres and Tara Ahern, along with artwork from students in the Master of Arts in Counseling: Art Therapy program. Ms. Torres is the founder and director of BACKBONES, which helps people with spinal cord injury or disease and their families. Ms. Ahern is a disability activist and operations director of Illinois Self Advocacy Alliance.
  • Accessibility in Higher Education for Students with Disabilities from 2-2:50 p.m. CDT on Zoom. Author Jay Dolmage, Ph.D., professor at the University of Waterloo, will lead a discussion to address the ableist attitudes, policies, and practices that are built into higher education, and develop strategies and tools that create more accessible classrooms and campuses. Dr. Dolmage published his book, “Academic Ableism: Disability and Higher Education,” in 2017.
  • Accessibility for Individuals with Disabilities in the Workplace from 2-2:50 p.m. on Zoom. The session is a discussion led by Adler alumni from the Master of Arts in Counseling: Specialization in Clinical Rehabilitation Counseling program. The speakers will talk about current vocational rehabilitation services for people with disabilities, including best practices, success stories, and obstacles.
  • Student Allyship and Community Building from 5:30-6:30 p.m. CDT on Zoom. All Adler students are invited to join this facilitated conversation where they will explore, alongside fellow students with disabilities, what it means to be in a community and serve as an ally with colleagues with disabilities.

The Abilities Symposium is sponsored by Adler University’s clinical rehabilitation counseling program and the Master of Arts in Counseling: Art Therapy program, with support from the Office of Student Affairs and Center for Diversity and Inclusion.

The symposium began in 2013 at the Chicago campus as an event to foster a deeper understanding of disability and inclusion. Its primary focus is on ability, resilience, and resources that promote inclusion of persons with disabilities in all aspects of the community and in the workplace.

For those joining virtually, real-time captioning will be provided, and attendees are welcome to have their cameras on or off. Those attending the in-person programs, Community Hall is accessible to wheelchair users and those who need to avoid stairs. Fidgets and art supplies are available for those who need them, and assistive listening devices (headsets and neck loops) are also available by request. For more information on the symposium and to request additional accommodations, email [email protected].

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