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ASCSU discusses potential plans for disability simulation event

For their first meeting of the spring semester, the Associated Students of Colorado State University discussed possible funding for an upcoming disabilities event.

Senator Savanah Overturf, a representative of the Student Disability Center, proposed a bill asking for the senate to host and fund an event aiming to support the campus’s disabled community by simulating the experiences of members of this community.

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The bill was ultimately moved to the Budgetary Affairs Committee.

The National Federation of the Blind does not endorse simulations like this and condemns and deplores institutions that perpetuate and endorse these kinds of activities and the negative impact they have on the lives of the blind and disabled people.”
CSU alumni and Senator-Emeritus Cerridwyn Nordstrom

Overturf’s bill specifically asked for $1,000 from the senate to go toward room rental, as well as funding toward materials and advertisements.

“I want to take CSU and put us at the forefront of inclusion,” Overturf said. “My belief as the senator for the disability support office is that one of our biggest tasks is that we support our students. We support our staff and anyone who has an inclusive need.”

The biggest goal of the event is to encourage support through understanding. Overturf said a large way to help people understand is by making them feel something they aren’t normally presented with.

“I want this event to not just influence CSU, but influence our community around us,” Overturf said. I feel like, yes, we’re in Fort Collins, but there are so many students coming from Loveland, Greeley, Johnstown and Windsor. We have to include them. So I made sure to contact outside sources.”

Kaitlin Johnson, a law student at the University of Denver, urged senators to vote no to the bill, stating that the idea and concept of a simulation event are problematic.

“Calling this a disability simulation also reinforces that disabled people are somehow less capable of completing daily tasks and being normal integrated people in society,” Johnson said. “We are not limited by our disability, and it does not inherently limit our function in society the way this activity suggests, and it’s unfortunate that the disability representative seems to suggest that.”

According to the bill, simulation events such as this “generally involve having people perform everyday activities with a temporary disability, such as a blindfold, earplugs or a wheelchair.”

Through the use of props and materials, “those without disabilities will have the opportunity to have the real-life experience of those who do,” according to the bill.

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Other senators showed appreciation for the bill and offered suggestions on how to create a more inclusive event. These included ideas such as inviting guest speakers studying disabilities or extending the event to include disabilities that aren’t visible and can’t be replicated.

CSU alumni and Senator-Emeritus Cerridwyn Nordstrom also spoke out against the bill with the statement that calling the event a disability simulation is inaccurate.

Nordstrom also said that, as a representative for the National Federation of the Blind, this event can reinforce stigmas and low expectations for blind people.

“The National Federation of the Blind does not endorse simulations like this and condemns and deplores institutions that perpetuate and endorse these kinds of activities and the negative impact they have on the lives of the blind and disabled people,” Nordstrom said. 

Nordstrom urged for blindness to be removed from the event or for the senate to vote no on the bill.

Charlotte Lang can be reached at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @chartrickwrites.

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