By Catherine Brown —

Students at the University of Louisville can make a difference in their community by raising awareness and understanding for their peers with disabilities.

U of L offers a safe space to individuals with disabilities, providing services through the Disability Resource Center (DRC) to accommodate their needs. 

According to the DRC’s website, the organization is designed to help students with documented disabilities and to promote equal access for all students.

Services that the center provides include supplemental note-taking, exam accommodations, adaptive equipment and alternative textbooks. 

The DRC is also providing a peer coaching program for disabled students to learn about U of L’s accommodations and accessing resources like Blackboard, ULink, course syllabi and requesting accommodations. 

The Disability Advocacy program has information about terminology, accommodations and inclusivity on campus. The DRC also holds group training for groups looking to foster awareness for access, as well as a student panel hosted by the center to discuss experiences at U of L.

It’s important to recognize that the scope of disability is very wide and doesn’t include only apparent disabilities.

Hidden disabilities exist, but can be hard to recognize even through interaction with the individual. Examples of hidden disabilities include dyslexia, ADHD, diabetes and anxiety.

It is hard to recognize someone with a hidden disability. It is a confidential matter that doesn’t have to be disclosed and one that must not be joked about.

When speaking about a person with disabilities, understand the use of “people-first” terms.

These terms label a person with disabilities as a person with a trait. Instead of saying that somebody is autistic, consider saying “a person with autism.” Autism isn’t their entire identity, but just something that they have. 

According to Disabled World, about 10 percent of people have an invisible disability. This is another reason why awareness is extremely important, because it is more prominent in the real world than how the media chooses to display it.

As an advocate it is important to raise awareness of disabilities by speaking about the topic, learning about the terms used and how they differ for each individual. This is seen as a sign of respect.

Understand that their personal information should be kept confidential, and respect their choice to disclose information to you.

U of L sends out emails at the start of every semester asking for supplemental note-takers for people with disabilities. It is possible to earn service hours with this opportunity and to gain an insight into how to be of service to other students who happen to have disabilities. 

Check out the “Getting Started” tab on the DRC’s website to learn how to can connect with them and what documentation might be needed for those with disabilities.

Graphic by Alexis Simon// The Louisville Cardinal