Examining Disabilities in the Classroom and Workplace


Logo of MSMU
Picture courtesy of Mount St. Mary’s University

On October 27th, students and faculty of Mount St. Mary’s University gathered in Laughlin Auditorium for a lecture titled “Examining Disabilities in the Classroom and Workplace.” The lecture was given by Marian Vessels, director of the Mid-Atlantic ADA center. The purpose of the lecture was to celebrate the twenty fifth anniversary of the act being passed and to spread awareness of modern day issues regarding mental, physical and emotional disabilities.

The flier promoting the lecture read, “The 25th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) signed by President George H.W. Bush on July 26, 1990 and the ADA Amendments Act of 2008 (ADAAA) give civil rights protections to individuals with disabilities similar to those provided to individuals on the basis of race, color, sex, national origin, age, and religion. The ADA and ADAAA also assure equal opportunity for individuals with disabilities for access to businesses, employment, transportation, state and local government programs and services, and telecommunications.”

Marian Vessels opened the lecture with a personal introduction and a quiz for the audience. From the quiz, students learned that fifty seven million people identified on their US Census form that they have a disability. Also, one out of every five people have a disability. Next, Ms. Vessels explained that ADA regards civil rights and was established for the inclusion of all people. She continued saying that there are five titles in the act: employment, accessibility in public entities, accessibility in businesses, telecommunications, and miscellaneous. The lecture continued, touching on the timeline of ADA legislation and why it was needed. Ms. Vessels stated that the ADA was needed because, before it was established, there were fewer curb cuts, businesses were not accessible, people with disabilities were rarely on television, interpreters were rarely used at public events and people with disabilities were excluded from activities due to barriers.

Next, Ms. Vessels explained the importance of disability awareness with regards to communication and interaction. She related a story of a young boy who described a disabled student to his mother using all of the student’s physical qualities besides his wheelchair. This type of acceptance and equality, Vessels explained, is the aim of the act. She then explained several ways to act around people with disabilities that all shared common characteristics of patience and understanding.

In conclusion, the lecture was a success. Ms. Vessels organized her points in a PowerPoint with clear topics and bullet points, making the lecture easy to follow and comprehend. In addition, the fact that Ms. Vessels was someone who had actually been at the signing of the act and lives with a disability of her own gave students a unique perspective.

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