I thought being in a wheelchair would be the easiest for reporting, until I went to get a drink.
Once I poured my lemonade, I held my cup in my right hand and rolled my left wheel forward. But instead, I just ended up going in circles and bumping into other people. I had to ask my table care assistant, Meghan Schoeller, junior education major, to help roll me back to the table.
On Oct. 18 at 4 p.m., the Office for Students with Disabilities (OSD) and the Owls Supporting Diversity Club (OSDC) hosted their annual “a Taste of Disability Dinner” in the Student Union’s Grand Palm Room, where, in exchange for dinner, you were able to be disabled.
There was four disabilities to choose from — be blind, hearing impaired, have your dominant hand in a sling, or be paralyzed from waist down in a wheelchair.
Shawn Friedkin, a 48-year-old businessman who has been paralyzed from waist down for 20 years, was a guest speaker. Friedkin magnified the room with his life story and the challenges he overcame as a young, disabled person.
“I never really thought about it,” Friedkin said. “Things like going over to a friend’s house with my wife for dinner and not being able to get in their house or into a bathroom. It was a real wake-up call.”
After his speech, our table was called to the buffet line, which was filled with things like cheese ravioli, salad and chicken.
Students with blindfolds were smelling the food to find out what it was. Others with their dominant hand in slings, as if it’s broken, just made a mess trying to serve themselves. On my wheelchair, I was too short to even see what the food options were, so I had to ask what was on each tray, and for table care assistant, Meghan Schoeller, to help me put the cheese ravioli on my plate.
Back at our table, Andrew Baker, moderator and a graduate assistant for the OSD, asked us how our disability for the evening affected us so far.
Jacobi Rose, a senior communications major, chose being hearing impaired as his disability.
“It’s hard because you realize you don’t mean to offend people,” he said. “But people kind of get anxious and upset when you can’t hear them and it’s not really your fault.”
After the dinner, each person picked up an envelope with a task to complete in it that depended on their disability.
That’s when students with their dominant arms in a sling had to open the envelope with their non-dominant hand. Some students in wheelchairs had trouble retrieving toilet paper in the restroom. John Smith, a senior public communications major, said this was his hardest struggle in a wheelchair.
“I thought the best strategy was for me to gain a lot of momentum and ram into it,” Smith said. “And it worked.”
Alexander Bembry, a senior health administration major, was in a wheelchair and enjoyed his experience. “It’s something you might not think about in your daily life,” he said.
“But just being able to get into that social setting and being able to do those things, it brings attention to the little smaller things that you don’t think about.”
Taste of DisabilityNandie Fambro, a sophomore education major, serves shrimp to one of the attendees, Stephanie Cime, a senior education major. Photo by Michelle Friswell.
Taste of DisabilityThe table setups at the dinner include a gold medal made out of chocolate along with awareness brochures. Photo by Michelle Friswell.
Taste of DisabilityDuring the A Taste of Disability Dinner on Oct. 18, sophomore biology major, Brie McDonnell, wears a pair of modified goggles in order to experience what it’s like to be vision impaired. Photo by Michelle Friswell.