With a simple presentation and a panel of guest speakers, the WSU Center for Diversity and Unity shed light on common misconceptions Wednesday during their “Stop the Hate: Silent Sounds and Guiding Eyes” presentation.
While sharing personal stories, students learned common misconceptions surrounding the blind and deaf, but many people are still unaware of these issues.
Ali Johnson, “Stop the Hate” chair for the WSU Center for Diversity and Unity, said the presentation was a great way to bring attention to these stigmas that are so common.
“It was there to stop stereotypes and get factual information out to increase understanding and awareness,” Johnson said.
According to the presentation, three main misconceptions are: impaired individuals can never live independently, impaired individuals want an easier life and if you have a physical disability then you must have an intellectual disability.
To address these misconceptions, Students with Disabilities Senator Melissa Reese and WSU nontraditional student Robert Schuessler shared their personal experiences to bring clarity to these false impressions.
Schuessler gave his perspective on what it’s like to be both visually and hearing impaired. However, he pointed out these impairments aren’t a problem, but an adversity to overcome.
“We’re able to do what we can do,” said Schuessler about students with impairments.
For Diversity Program Coordinator Teresa Holt, the panel of speakers was the main highlight of the presentation.
Holt said the guest speakers gave insight on what it’s like for impaired individuals to deal with these misconceptions.
“It was really cool to see the majority of the Disability Center here,” said Holt. “Just hearing their stories and learning from their experiences was great.”
According to Holt, a lot of work went into finding all the resources needed, including translators and transcribers.
For Holt, the presentation ended with success.
“I thought the overall presentation was really moving and we had a really good turnout, so that was really cool,” Holt said.
For Johnson, the overall goal of the presentation was to not only increase understanding of students with impairments, but to break barriers and promote acceptance.
“I hope that people got a better understanding of the tools that are available to help deaf and blind individuals,” Johnson said. “I also hope that they will look at themselves and identify their own misconceptions and work at changing those.”
Johnson also advised students to get more involved with the deaf and blind culture. She encouraged students to break out of their comfort zones and attempt to communicate with visually or hearing-impaired students.
For Johnson, taking ASL classes and learning to interact with the deaf culture is how she goes about becoming more culturally competent and accepting of students with disabilities.
“Put yourself out there and risk looking silly,” Johnson said. “At the end of the day, you treated someone like they existed.”
Located at the heart of the Shepherd Union, the Center for Diversity and Unity will host their monthly “Stop the Hate” meetings where all students are welcome to attend.
Holt encourages WSU students to attend these meetings to discuss all the nitty-gritty topics that are often overlooked.
“It’s important to share these topics because they’re topics that people don’t want to talk about,” said Holt.
The need to promote diversity and culture is always a constant priority for the center. Holt believes these monthly meetings are extremely important to the campus.
“Having students walk in, not really knowing what they’re going to get into, and then walking out with a sense of competence is just awesome,” said Holt. “I feel that’s our purpose and that’s why we continue to do it.”