Despite the constraints of the pandemic, UMD’s 2020 Disability Awareness Month activities are attracting more participation than ever, with turnout in some cases doubled compared to last year, organizers say.

Held each October, Disability Awareness Month is a national campaign to raise awareness about disability issues and celebrates the many and varied contributions of America's employees with a range of disabilities. UMD's roster of virtual events offers a chance for community members  to connect, learn and explore topics related to disability on campus and beyond.

The events are open to the public, and this year are drawing attendees from a much wider geographic area than ever before, including many from out of state, said Ana Palla-Kane, co-chair of the President’s Commission on Disability and Inclusion (PCDI) and a senior IT accessibility and UX specialist.

“Now that we’re 100% online, we had more than 50 people at the #BlackDisabledLivesMatter event organized by the Career Center, and at the 'Adapting Courses to Maximize Accessibility' event yesterday," she said. "We have 49 already signed up for the DIY IT accessibility event tomorrow.”

PCDI’s new student advisory committee is bringing not just more people, but new perspectives and energy to this month’s events.

“Having this committee has really changed the way the conversation related to access and inclusivity on campus plays out, and really changed who is involved in the conversation,” said PCDI committee member Adith Thummalapalli ’20, who helped found the student advisory committee before graduating in May. “The result was that the wider student body found out more of the problems and issues their peers with disabilities were running into, as did the faculty. This resulted in more support and a broader conversation about inclusion with multicultural and LGBTQ organizations getting involved as well.”

PCDI is holding the following events online:

  • Oct. 7, 10-11 a.m., “DIY IT Accessibility: The Six Essential Steps”: In this Zoom webinar, get an overview of the areas that have the greatest impact on making your online content more accessible. Register at https://go.umd.edu/DAM20ITaccessibility.
  • Oct. 7, 11 a.m.-1 p.m., “Terps Take Care Fair”: In its fourth year—and first via Zoom—this event strives to raise awareness about mental health, promote healthy self-care strategies, reduce stigma surrounding mental illness and seeking help, and connect participants to the wider community of support. Find details at http://blog.umd.edu/terpstakecare/fair/.
  • Oct. 8, 4-5 p.m., “Workforce Recruitment Program Info Session”: Are you a student with a disability or a neurodiversity interested in an internship or employment with the federal government? Register to participate at http://go.umd.edu/wrp2020.
  • Oct. 14, 5-6 p.m., “Disclosure and Accommodations for Students with Disabilities and Neurodiverse Students”: Are you thinking about disclosure or accommodations in an internship or on the job? Let us help you sort out the confusion and complexities. Join us and bring your questions and concerns. Register at https://go.umd.edu/disclosure2020.
  • Oct. 19, noon-1 p.m., “Dismantling Disability Stigma: An Open Dialogue with Students with Disabilities”:  Join a panel of UMD students for a conversation about breaking the stigma that surrounds disability. Members of the non-disabled community, here is your chance to ask the questions you may not have wanted to before, and anyone who wants to learn is welcome. Register at https://go.umd.edu/dismantlingdisabilitystigma.
  • Oct. 20, 5-6 p.m., “Movie Club: A Discussion on Disability Rights”: Join Professor Paul Jaeger of the College of Information Studies, who is visually impaired and is co-chair of the PCDI, and members from the UMD community for a Zoom discussion on disability rights, in response to the documentary "Crip Camp: A Disability Revolution" and this summer's UMD ADA 30th Anniversary Webinar with Judith Heumann. Register at https://go.umd.edu/movieclubDAM-20.
  • Oct. 22, 6-7 p.m., Voices of Disability: Connecting Through Personal Stories”: UMD’s disabled community and anyone who has experienced disability in any way (parents, siblings, friends, allies, professional, other) are invited to share their stories at this Zoom event. Register at https://go.umd.edu/voicesofdisability.

Live captioning will be provided for all events. Contact PCDI at pcdi@umd.edu with questions or to request accommodations that will facilitate your full participation. Find the latest details at https://pcdi.umd.edu/awareness-month.