Cornell’s Americans with Disabilities Act coordinator team launched an awareness campaign in January that uses social media and on-campus posters to foster a supportive environment for people with disabilities.
“The focus of this awareness campaign is more than raising awareness about disability generally,” said Angela Winfield, director of inclusion and workforce diversity. “It also is aimed at highlighting the fact that disability is part of the diversity and inclusion conversation.”
The ADA, a civil rights law created in 1990, bans discrimination based on disabilities. The legislation requires covered employers to provide disabled employees with reasonable accommodations and mandates accessibility requirements for public spaces.
“There are themes to the experience of disability that are largely true across the experience of living with a disability,” said Katherine Fahey, student disabilities services director. “For instance, two individuals, one with a mobility disability and the other with a mental health disability, may seem to have quite different experiences of living with a disability, but inclusion is important to both.”
Feeling valued and having their experiences acknowledged are other factors that will be important to both groups and others living with a disability, Fahey said.
To convey its mission, the campaign uses the hashtag #DiversityIncludesDisability.
“Often times, disability is one of the aspects of diversity that does not always get discussed and we need to shift that,” Winfield said. “When you have a diverse community, it will contain individuals with disabilities.”
The campaign was designed to encourage the campus community to take initiative to learn more about disabilities, Fahey said.
“The idea that diversity includes disability is so important to develop inclusive practices in every dimension of campus life,” Fahey said. “Integrating knowledge about the disability experience as part of any planning process [including] course design, IT purchases, event planning, snow removal, will result in tremendous strides in access and inclusion.”
Campaign topics will include a range of disability subjects including aspects regarding self-identification, physical accessibility and online accessibility.
Fahey said she encourages students to try learning more about disabilities and get involved through campus organizations such as the Cornell Union for Disability Awareness.
“We hope that the campaign helps community members think about disability as adding to the rich tapestry of diversity within the Cornell community,” Winfield said.