Skip to content

Awareness Activities

What Is Current Practice?

Disability awareness events, activities, and publications are widely used and often center around the following themes.

  • Etiquette training which provides rules for interacting with disabled people 
  • Sensitivity training which may include simulation activities
  • Workshops on a specific condition which provides information about the diagnosis, its symptoms and its implications
  • Legal workshops which provide information about ensuring compliance


Traditional Sample 1 – Simulation Activity

One activity we found was called “Nacho Disability.” People had to prepare and eat nachos while wearing a blind-fold, holding a sucker in their mouth, or with hands tied behind their backs. One video describing the activity said that they simulated bi-polar disorder by having people have their hands tied behind their backs while walking backwards. This is supposed to help them better understand what it would be like to be disabled.

Traditional Sample 2 – Etiquette Workshop Description

If you have not had many interactions with persons with disabilities, you may not know exactly how to act. For example, you may ask yourself “how do I talk to someone in a wheelchair?” or “how do I interact with someone who is blind or deaf?” This workshop will provide some guidelines to ensure respectful and equal treatment of people with disabilities.

Traditional Sample 3 – Workshop Description on a Specific Condition

Asperger’s Awareness: This training is designed to increase staff awareness of the difficulties faced by students with Asperger’s Syndrome, to improve understanding, and to provide information on how to help these students.

Traditional Sample 4 – Description of Compliance Workshop

What does the law say about digital accessibility? (or How to Not Get Sued): This workshop will provide you with an introduction of WCAG 2.0, the ADA and legal decisions related to digital access. Know what you must do in order to remain in compliance and not be the next victim of a drive by lawsuit.

What are the implicit messages?

  • It is possible to fully understand disability by “trying on” a condition for a brief time.
  • Some people are “normal” and some people aren’t.
  • Disability is tragic and requires societal good will and charity. This messaging can cause disabled people to lose dignity and self-respect and become discouraged from developing a positive self-identity.
  • Disabled people are so different that special tips and strategies are required to interact with them.
  • Non-disabled people can speak for and are experts on the disability experience.
  • It is okay to motivate people by making them afraid of being sued.
  • People who are out of compliance are victims of disabled people.

How might this be different?

Disability events, activities, and publications are widely used to:

  • Reframe society’s conceptualization of disability and relocate the “problem of disability”
  • Celebrate the experience and history of disability
  • Identify strategies for designing inclusive environments

Possible Titles:

  • Disability History Week
  • Reframing Disability
  • Challenging the Concept of Normalcy
  • Discrimination by Design

Guided by disability studies and a sociopolitical perspective of disability have events focus on:

  • Personal narratives of the disability experience
  • Performance art
  • Fine arts displays
  • History of disability
  • Design and its impact
  • Portrayals of disability in film and media
  • Disability in literature
  • Book readings and discussion
  • Disability studies research
  • Discussions exploring problems with awareness events

Resource for Programming

Explore Access: Disability as Diversity Programming Toolkit

What is the potential impact of this change?

  • The disability resource office is seen as having a leadership role in creating opportunities to explore disability with depth and seriousness.
  • Socialized views of disability and normalcy, represented in language, media, educational curriculae, and design, are challenged. Disability is viewed as a difference rather than a tragedy.
  • Disability is a key aspect of the human experience.
  • The campus commitment is not simply a reaction to legal requirements but a part of a larger institutional commitment to equity to diversity, social justice and equity.
  • The experience of disability is re-imagined and re-narrated.

Next Page: Collaborations