Students of the LLM in International and Comparative Disability Law and Policy programme, along with staff of NUI Galway’s Centre for Disability Law and Policy, recently held the a Disability Awareness Week - Access All Areas
Funded through the EXPLORE project at NUI Galway, the week saw a range of inter-disciplinary events organised all over campus with the aim of raising awareness around disability, diversity and equality in access to higher education and inclusion in society. More specifically, this project aimed at increasing staff, student and public awareness about people with disabilities, with a view to combating stereotypes and promoting the contributions of people with disabilities through a campus-wide awareness week.
At the beginning of the week the innovative 'Going to College' Project was showcased. This is a pioneering education initiative supporting the full inclusion of students with intellectual disabilities into NUI Galway. Students currently enrolled at NUI Galway as part of this project, as well as their mentors spoke and shared their experiences.
An Employability Seminar was organised on the second day of the week. At the morning seminar attendees, mostly students, heard from representatives from local, national and international organizations working to promote the inclusion of people with disabilities in the workplace. The seminar also addressed issues such as disability awareness within the corporate environment. Speakers included Pauline Dwyer of Employability Galway, Claire Hurley from the NUI Galway Career Development Office, a representative from the Association for Higher Education Access & Disability, and members from the Kanchi initiative, a social enterprise that works with businesses to encourage the employment of persons with disabilities.
Highlights during the week included: a seminar on ‘Mental Illness or Psychosocial disability- What’s the difference?’; an Introduction to Irish Sign Language class, a Disability Awareness Workshop; a Disability Equality e-learning module, designed by the National Disability Authority; and a tandem cycle event around campus, organised by the Galway Visually Impaired Activity Club. Students also presented the outcomes of their Accessibility Audit of NUI Galway.
The cast of the Blue Teapot Theatre Company also spoke about the recent production, ‘Sanctuary’, a poignant, funny and bittersweet play that explores the lives and relationships of people with intellectual disabilities and the obstacles they must overcome to be together.
PhD Candidate Siobhán Purcell of the Moore Institute for Research in the Humanities and Social Sciences at NUI Galway discussed how disability is represented in the Irish literary tradition, particularly exploring the works of Joyce and Beckett.
The Awareness Week was an opportunity for the LLM students to apply what they have learnt in practice and work towards dismantling the barriers to inclusion and participation faced by persons with disabilities. The week was effective and meaningful in terms of introducing the disability friendly environment in the college. The Disability Support Office and local organisations also significantly contributed to the week which will be repeated on an annual basis.
Throughout the week, the students manned a stand to provide information about the week and from which they also made a film asking students to comment on what disability meant to them. The video is available to view at https://www.dropbox.com/s/gmo1762o53umfjw/WhatDoesDisabilityMean.m4v