As the doors open and the line piled up from the SMSU event center all the way across to the SMSU food court, people waited in this line to get into the event center for the 4th Annual Ability Awareness Fair.
The 4th Annual Ability Awareness Fair was able to happen again with the help of CSUSB Office of Services to Students with Disabilities, Student Veterans Organization, and the Departments of History and English.
This fair is important because it is Global Disability Awareness Day. It is a chance to have people became more aware of disabilities and learn about all the resources CSUSB provides to students with disabilities.
Scholar poet and disabled advocate guest speaker Eli Clare came to speak about Disability Shame, Disability Pride. He got his Bachelor’s degree in Women’s Studies from Mills College in Oakland California and got his Masters in creative writing with a concentration in poetry and teaching writing from Goddard College in Vermont.
Before Eli Clare started his speech he made sure the audience was as comfortable as possible. He asked if the volume of his speech was okay and if at any point his volume lowered to let him know. He also made sure that nothing was going to get in someone’s way of them enjoying this event. So if anyone wasn’t comfortable where they were sitting or if they have to play with their pencil or paper, even if they have to step out for a second he said to do so. Doing this Clare made it clear to his audience that this was a safe space.
“There are other people in the room who want to become allies to disabled people,” said Clare. “There are other people in the room who work with disabled people and all of us in this room have a relationship to disability shame.”
Clare began his speech with one of his poems. He read his poem out loud and then said that throughout his speech the poem was going to be repeated. He broke down the poem throughout his speech flowing well with the rest of his speech about his main concept Disability Shame, and Disability Pride.
“There are no right or wrong answers about poetry, poetry is not a jigsaw puzzle,” said Clare.
His poem had five stanzas. He would read a stanza and then described his life within what the stanza meant to him, explaining more depth what he has gone through in his life. He mentioned that he wasn’t making any of this up, those words that people said or say about him are the actual words that have been said about him from people so he apologized in advance for any words he was about to say that may appear offensive to some.
“Everyone in this room gravels with shame in some form or another”, said Clare. “I want to acknowledge that the majority of the people that attended this event experienced or dealt with a form of disability whether it be something physical or mental.
After Eli Clare finished his speech he announced that he was going to have a station for more one on one questions and he would be autographing his books. ASI also had pizza, lemonade and water for everyone. The room was filled with many students, facility and guests and they had a wide variety of interaction stations to choose from, each station was either interactive or to learn about resources provided to students with disabilities on campus.
The campus accessibility station gave out maps of all the locations where coyote walk closure and temporary walkways are installed. They also provide information on getting seating arrangements to any classroom you need through the Service to Students with Disabilities office (SSD).
The mental health station gave out information on how to get help with mental help, self-care, meditations, and ways to help people struggling with mental health. They also passed out candy, pens and pencils.
The learning disability station had an interactive game where you try to go over an outline on a paper but looking into the mirror. People who participated in this exercise got to experience what it is like for people who have learning difficulties like dyslexia and dysgraphia.
Additionally, they had a blind maze station. The purpose behind this station was to step into the shoes of someone who is visually impaired or is completely blind.
Other stations were also incorporated to educate and inform people about all the services offered by the SSD office here at CSUSB. Those services include vision impairment, assistive technology, hearing impairment, mobility services, testing services, smartpen, and many more.
“Disabled people are not given space to discover sexuality whatever that is, said Clare, weather was heterosexual, lesbian, gay, bisexual, queer, weather was asexual, were not given the room to discover that and to let that grow in the way that it often does in non-disabling people.”