There is an old saying that goes “Do not judge someone unless you have walked in their shoes.” The difficulties in the life of a person with disabilities often go unnoticed. Because of this, the Office of Multicultural and International Services (MISO) hosted an interactive learning event called “The Challenge Experience” in the SCC Boardrooms on Oct. 12.
The event was designed to create awareness about the challenges that persons with disabilities face in carrying out everyday tasks.
Five stations were set up, each with a different task that focused on a specific disability. There was also posters and handouts available that provided additional information on each disability such as visual-impairment, dyslexia, cerebral palsy, as well as others.
The first station involved making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich while blind-folded. This challenge was made harder when the plate was moved a few inches while the person was making the sandwich. It represented the obstacles that visually-impaired persons have to overcome in carrying out everyday tasks, as well as showing how difficult it becomes when they have their things moved from their usual locations. It is a potentially dangerous thing to move items around in a visually-impaired person’s home.
The second station required participants to pick up and open candy with socks on their hands, demonstrating the problems faced by those with cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis, or any other disease which causes a loss of dexterity in the fingers. Many students underestimated this challenge.
“I was really surprised by how hard that was. I could not imagine not being able to simply open a piece of candy,” said Yegeta Telila, a sophomore and political science major.
The third station made use of a magnifier that produced an inverted image that was projected onto a screen. Students had to trace the image on paper while looking at the screen only. This demonstrated the challenges faced by persons who have dyslexia, or other conditions where there is a problem with translating what is seen.
The fourth station involved identifying different objects while blind-folded. Similar to the first station, this represented another challenge faced by persons with visual impairments. It showed how much they have to rely on their other senses to figure out their surroundings. The items included a scented candle, jewelry, balls, gummy worms, toys, lip balm, and shaving cream, which was the hardest to decipher.
The final and most difficult station required the use of a wheelchair. Participants had to navigate the boardrooms while carrying objects in a tray and using the wheelchair. The challenge imitated a wheelchair-user navigating a cafeteria; the tray and items represented the food. Students had to go through one door of the boardrooms and re-enter through the other and back to starting point. If any of their objects fell, which occurred frequently, they had to stop and pick them up.
According to Nicholas Fox, a freshman biology major and a participant at this station, “It is truly an eye-opening experience to see what persons with disabilities go through. It makes me appreciate having a fully functional body.”
This event’s timing is apt, as this month is ‘National Disability Awareness Month.’ According to the Saint Leo website, the mission of the MISO is “to assist, nurture, and support international, study abroad, and multicultural students and their peer communities through planning, developing, implementing, and evaluating programs and services that facilitate intellectual, interpersonal, and spiritual development.” The event truly embodied that mission. MISO spread awareness about members of our student body, who are often overlooked.