September 21, 2012 by Sandra Petri
Students who took the course titled Great Works Symposium: Perspectives on Disability had an opportunity to understand class content on a bigger level as they attended the Paralympics in London Aug. 31 through Sept. 8.
While in London, students had the opportunity to see Paralympic events including wheelchair tennis, basketball and rugby, as well as five-a-side and seven-a-side soccer, played by blind athletes and athletes with cerebral palsy, respectively.
After completing the three-credit course during the summer term, students had the opportunity to take the trip to London for extra credit. The class met every Thursday night for three hours and included lectures, guest speakers, question-and-answer sessions, and discussions of assigned readings. It was designed to give students a new perspective on disability, and speakers addressed topics such as the misunderstanding of military injury and disability. Another speaker talked about autism, the stigma surrounding the disease, and what it actually is.
Students were also responsible for choosing any research topic relating to disabilities and completing a project on it. Katie Delaney, a sophomore education major, and Freddy May, a pre-junior studying health services administration, chose to do their project on the effect of disabilities on families. Delaney explained that the most important thing she learned from the course and the trip to London is that society must change its entire perspective on the disabled in the community.
“Whether you are looking at disabilities from a business, education or even a simple bystander’s perspective, it is in the best interest of the community to integrate persons with disabilities as much as possible without having to provide accommodations. For instance, make an online quiz accessible to [the] blind with text readers; the page would appear no different to the sighted users, but it would save the embarrassment and hassle of the blind student from seeking assistance,” she said.
Although the group didn’t have the chance to meet any of the athletes competing in this year’s games, a BBC reporter they met introduced them to Carys Davina “Tanni” Grey-Thompson, a wheelchair racer who competed in five previous Paralympic Games and won 16 medals.
“Attending the Paralympics was more than just an opportunity to see amazing elite athletes; it was an opportunity to witness the application of what we had spent so much time learning,” Delaney said.
Of the approximately 30 students who took the course, nine made the trip to London for the Paralympic Games. Besides attending athletic events, students were given time to sightsee in London, and some took a day trip to Paris. The group took walking tours of West London, where they stayed for the week, and East London, where the Olympic Park is located. Students also visited the London Eye, the Tower of London, the British Museum and Tate Modern.