Allies for Inclusion: The Ability Exhibit educates students about disability


Allies for Inclusion: The Ability Exhibit is being shown at Irwin Library this week to educate students about what it means to have a disability and how to be inclusive to people of all abilities.

The exhibit was originally created by graduate students at Saint Louis University as a class project, but has since evolved into a traveling, multimedia exhibit that brings disability education to many venues. It is visiting Butler thanks to a Butler Innovation grant.

Kathleen Camire, the associate director of Butler’s Student Disability Services office, said disability education is extremely important because of the increasing number of people with different abilities. She said that people with disabilities encompass the largest minority group in the United States, totalling at approximately 19 percent of the population.

“It’s not just people in wheelchairs or people who are blind,” Camire said. “Disability in our office encompasses ADHD, learning disabilities, psychiatric disabilities like anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, and people with medical conditions and temporary disabilities, all kinds of things.”

Butler University, like most universities, is trending toward a student population in which 10 percent of students have disabilities, which is in line with national trends. Disabilities are being identified more often throughout the country, and there is more support within secondary education to help students with disabilities attend college.  

“We have 400 students registered at our office here at Butler, and I don’t think that’s something you would expect if you just looked around and guessed,” Camire said.

First-year engineering major Anu Kadampelil said she plans to visit the exhibit. She said she would not have guessed there were 400 students at Butler with disabilities.

“It’s great to know that there is a place where students can go to receive help to get the best education possible,” Kadampelil said.

The exhibit, in addition to teaching people about disability rights and history, also promotes inclusion through respect for others, comfort during interactions and awareness.

“People are more than their disability,” Camire said, explaining how we should not only recognize people with disabilities as being ‘inspirational stories’ but as being regular people.

This kind of person-first language, coupled with respect and awareness about disabilities, are all a part of what it means to be an ally for inclusion.

Kadampelil said she of thinks of allies as people who don’t exclude a person on the basis of sex, religion or disabilities, but embraces them with open arms.

Krista Pulley, a first-year biochemistry and engineering student, said she hopes The Ability Exhibit helps educate Butler students.

“I feel like if Butler students — and everyone — were to be more educated about disabilities and people with disabilities, these misconceptions would start to disappear and everyone will start seeing people with disabilities as the people they actually are, rather than their disabilities,” she said.

By attending The Ability Exhibit and participating in its 10 interactive stations, students will learn how to be allies for the hundreds of their peers who are living with disabilities.

The remaining hours for the exhibit are 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. today, and 9:30 to 12:30 p.m. on Thursday, March 30. In addition to the regular viewing hours, there are BCR presentations of the exhibit at 6 and 7:30pm today. Students can pick up free tickets from Jordan Hall 136.