In recognition of October as National Disability Awareness Month, Kennedy Library partnered with Cal Poly’s Disability Resource Center to display “Allies for Inclusion: The Ability Exhibit.” The interactive exhibit promotes the inclusion of people with disabilities through respect for others, comfort during interactions, and awareness of disability issues using a series of multimedia stations. A tailor-made station invited visitors to learn about the disability experiences of Cal Poly students in their own words. Developed by Saint Louis University, the traveling exhibit encouraged the Cal Poly community and visitors to become allies for inclusion.
The project’s travel was made possible through the support of the Disability Resource Center, Kennedy Library, the Diversity Funding Committee, and all six colleges—College of Architecture and Environmental Design, College of Liberal Arts, College of Science and Mathematics, Orfalea College of Business, College of Engineering, and the College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences.
More than two-dozen volunteer docents like Cal Poly professor emeritus Paul Wolff, helped guide visitors through the exhibit to learn about the many obstacles experienced by people with disabilities. Some are physical barriers and some are social barriers placed upon by others in their daily lives. Wolff is an active advocate for all people with disabilities. “I believe very much in the message that every person have equitable access to spaces and knowledge. This exhibit helps bring awareness to the work we still need to do to make the this world accessible to everyone—including people with disabilities and people of all backgrounds,” shared Wolff. During his tenure in the Architecture department at Cal Poly, Wolff designed and taught a course based on physical, psychological and social factors entitled, “Design for All People: creating a responsive and accessible environment.”
Assistive Technology Specialist, John Lee spearheaded the effort to bring the exhibit to campus. “It was my hope that the exhibit would allow for viewers to appreciate disability as a form of diversity and not through a deficit lens but that of a human experience lens,” shared Lee. “As a person with a disability it is important for me to encourage people to become allies. The voices and advocacy from allies help amplify the message of accessibility and inclusivity.”
“This exhibit expands people’s perceptions that disability rights are civil rights. The Americans with Disabilities Act is a unique civil rights law—it’s not only for people with disabilities today, it’s there for all of us for tomorrow, should we ever experience a temporary or permanent disability whether it be through aging, illness, or injury. That’s why it’s so important for us all to be allies for inclusion,”concluded Lee.