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Disability Awareness Symposium focuses on fitness for all

Closeup of Wesley Hamilton.
Wesley Hamilton, founder and executive director of Disabled but Not Really and this year’s Disability  Awareness Symposium keynote speaker.

Fitness is for everyone. That’s the theme of this year’s Disability Awareness Symposium, which is being held virtually March 29 – April 2. The symposium features multiple workshops and presentations each day, and students, staff, and faculty from all WSU locations are encouraged to attend.

Symposium organizer and Access Advisor and Awareness Coordinator Davi Kallman said she and the other event organizers chose the “Fitness for All: Inclusive Fitness and Sport” theme because people with disabilities are often left out of fitness and sporting events.

“That’s why we made this about sport – so allies understand that when they look at sport, or film, or literature, the voices of people with disabilities are left out of the conversation,” Kallman said. “To be a better ally and advocate, they need to understand that people with disabilities are all around us, and we need to be better at making sure their voices are heard.”

Accessible learning for all

The week-long symposium, sponsored by the Access Center, the Disabled Students and Allies Club, and University Recreation, aims to bring more voices into the disability and fitness conversation with workshops on adaptive exercise and sports, mental health, and nutrition. A list of each event is available on the Access Center website.

Kallman said she’s looking forward to all the sessions but is particularly excited about the April 2 events with Disabled But Not Really Founder and Executive Director Wesley Hamilton, who was a featured hero on Netflix’s Queer Eye(season 4, episode 2).

“Wesley is absolutely incredible,” she said. “He gives a perspective of how not being born with disability impacted him, and I think that will resonate with a lot of our students who can’t relate to disability because they’ve never experienced it or they’ve never met anyone with a disability.”

Almost all sessions are being offered virtually, a COVID necessity that Kallman said has the benefit of making the event “100 percent more accessible than it was before.” All sessions will have automatic captioning, and some events will have interpreters. Attendees who need other accommodations should contact Kallman.

In addition to making the event more accessible to those with disabilities, the virtual offerings make the symposium available to people from all WSU locations.

“Because the symposium is online, you don’t have to be in Pullman to attend – you can be anywhere and access these events and resources,” said Mikayla Beckley, vice president of the Disabled Students and Allies Club. “I really encourage everyone to participate, because there are some really cool sessions. There’s something for everyone.”

Breaking down disability stereotypes

The symposium will provide practical education on disability and fitness, but Beckley and Kallman hope it will also help the broader community understand and get more comfortable with disability.

“A lot of people get uncomfortable and dance around it, but I’m always hopeful after that events like this, people will be more comfortable talking about disabilities and realizing how they can be more inclusive in their daily life,” Beckley said. “My primary goal is to get people to embrace disability as something that’s incredible and beautiful.”

In addition to highlighting the broad world of adaptive fitness and giving voice to perspectives that often go unheard, Kallman hopes the symposium will also help break down stigmas and stereotypes and encourage students with disabilities to reach out to the Access Center for assistance.

“That is the ultimate goal of these type of events: to break down disability stereotypes and make people understand and normalize what disability is,” she said.

For more information on the symposium and to register for events, visit the Access Center website.

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