'Ability Exhibit' promotes awareness for people with disability

September 10, 2012

By Steven Johnson ’13

The College of Education and Health Science, along with the Department of Teacher Education and the Bradley Center for Learning Assistance, came together last week to stage “The Ability Exhibit,” which focused on promoting the acceptance of people with disabilities through respect, understanding and awareness of the issues surrounding disabilities.

Dr. Celia Johnson, a professor in the teacher education department, said the event took place in Westlake Hall from Sept. 4 to 7 and described how the traveling exhibit came to Bradley via St. Louis.

“A student from Saint Louis University did this as a project to raise the awareness and comfort level of people interacting with others with disabilities,” Dr. Johnson said. “When she put this together, her professor encouraged her to set it up so it could go beyond their experience there.”

The exposition contains several interactive stations where visitors can better understand how powerful certain words are when it comes to working with disabilities and how we use them. The showcase is designed for everyone from students, educators to members of the community.

Some of the displays center on Person-first language, which encourages people to promote the person first, then the disability; “Ability IQ,” a computer quiz that tests a users knowledge about disabilities; and a “space rope” station, where people can experience the communication distances used by the blind or those with low vision.

Dr. Johnson said the Center for Learning Assistance helped secured a grant and brought the department of the teacher education on board in organizing the event. She added that students have been an integral part in setting up and running the exhibit.

“Jennifer Balikov, the president of Bradley’s Student Council for Exceptional Children, has been very much a leader in getting students involved,” Dr. Johnson said. “We could not have done this without the student volunteers to support the forty hours that the event was open this week.”

Balikov, a senior in the Learning Behavior Specialist I program, said she was pleased the event was such a success.

“The ‘Ability Exhibit’ was amazing,” the Deerfield, Ill., native said. “Going in to it, none of us really knew what to expect from it. We did not know how many people we were going to get, so it was a big risk to take.”

Balikov said on Tuesday and Wednesday, the event drew more than 600 visitors in total while organizers believed only 100 people would attend each day.

“It’s just been incredible. The staff had been bringing their EHS classes and other education professors have had assignments for their students to do. It’s just amazing I had the opportunity to be here and see people’s reactions to the different things here,” Balikov said.