Spreading awareness through Invisible Disabilities Week AccessAbility Services and Renison Working Group inform students on unseen disabilities

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Left: Justin Doyle, Student, Renison, member of Renison’s Accessibility Working Group, Right: Judi Jewinski, Administrative Dean, Renison University College Photo by Ramona Leitao
Left: Justin Doyle, Student, Renison, member of Renison’s Accessibility Working Group, Right: Judi Jewinski, Administrative Dean, Renison University College. Photo by Ramona Leitao

Partnering with the Accessibility Matters at Renison Working Group, AccessAbility Services is raising awareness about invisible disabilities this week.

According to administrative dean at Renison University College Judi Jewinski, invisible disabilities can impact students just as much as visible disabilities.

“When we think of disabilities, it’s easy to imagine someone in a wheelchair, with a cane, or with crutches … all of those are visible disabilities and we recognize some that are permanent and some that are temporary. Invisible disabilities can be equally debilitating, but are not obvious at first glance or even at second glance,” Jewinski said. “One of the problems with that is that we then imagine everybody is going to be able to perform the way a 100 per cent normal person would and that’s not always the case.”

The goal of Invisible Disabilities Week is not only to spread awareness of these disabilities, but to show students what services are available for them. According to a Statistics Canada survey in 2014, about 14 per cent of Canadians have some form of disability.

Michaela Tatu, Administrative Coordinator Renison University College. Photo by Ramona Leitao
Michaela Tatu, Administrative Coordinator
Renison University College. Photo by Ramona Leitao

“A lot of students have an experience with disabilities at one time or another, and some of these are permanent disabilities in that we should consider a learning disability as a disability, it’s not visible. At the same time, there are a lot of short-term disabilities that can happen as well. For example, someone who has a concussion … it’s something that can be really debilitating,” Jewinski said. “Students are embarrassed to talk about it and … request the accommodation. We want people to know about AccessAbility Services because … it is really the first good place to start if you have any kind of issue you need help with.”

According to Jewinski, there are many services that can help students with disabilities including AccessAbility Services, Mental Health Services, Counselling Services, and Student Success Office. The Writing Centre can also help people who struggle with writing.

“The real message for Invisible Disabilities Week is it’s not just one week. We’re using the week to draw attention to the fact that we shouldn’t be judgmental about people, we should listen and be helpful because everyone is different,” Jewinski said.

Jennifer Gillies, PhD, Manager, AccessAbility Services. Photo by Ramona Leitao
Jennifer Gillies, PhD, Manager, AccessAbility Services. Photo by Ramona Leitao

Every day starting Monday, AccessAbility Services and AccessAbility Matters will feature a different theme related to invisible disabilities. With the help of Imprint’s media and creative director Ramona Leitao, five video clips were created as part of a developing strategy to raise awareness. These can be found on the Imprint YouTube page.

Jay Dolmage, PhD, Professor, Associate Professor and Associate Chair, Undergraduate Studies. Photo by Ramona Leitao
Jay Dolmage, PhD, Professor, Associate Professor and Associate Chair, Undergraduate Studies. Photo by Ramona Leitao

“I’m delighted to be on a campus where so much attention is being paid to students. That wasn’t really the case when I was a student.  When you got to university, you were independent; you toughed it out; you got through everything, and luckily, there were some nice people along the way,” Jewinski said. “Over the years, we’ve developed into a campus that is really very caring and supportive, and I’m really very proud of that.”

Invisible Disabilities Week will run from Oct. 16-22.

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