Events planned to raise awareness of disabilities at Penn State Hazleton

HAZLETON, Pa. — Penn State Hazleton is hosting a series of events for DisABILITY Awareness Week, Oct. 17-21, overseen by the rehabilitation and human services faculty at the campus.

The week’s events will give the students a chance to serve as advocates for people with disabilities, speaking with their peers and others to present an idea of what life is like for them.

“There are a number of misconceptions about people with disabilities, including what they can and cannot do. I think people often overlook the fact that people with disabilities have the same goals and desires in life, including employment, relationships and having an active social life,” said Garrett Huck, assistant professor of rehabilitation and human services.

“Many people aren’t aware of disability types or how many there are, particularly when it comes to mental health. That can keep people from coming forward with their conditions. I want to help eliminate the stigma that it’s not OK to talk about mental health problems,” he said.

The majority of students in the RHS program will be involved in the week in some way. Some events will see 40 to 50 students participating in some capacity.

“Our students have been excited about the opportunity to get the message out about the lives and abilities of people who face challenges in their lives," said Lorie Kramer, instructor in rehabilitation and human services and program coordinator. "They have made numerous suggestions and been really proactive about getting involved in these events.”

Students will canvass the campus with information on bulletin boards, chalk information on sidewalks and more, sharing details on disability statistics and other facts.

Informational tables in the Charles T. Butler Teaching and Learning Resource Center and Evelyn Graham Academic Building will be staffed by students, providing details on resources for those with disabilities.

A class of students will oversee educational engagement activities concerning disabilities in the Butler building each day from 12:20 to 1:10 p.m.

Student-created posters drawing attention to a variety of disabilities will be displayed Monday through Thursday in the Butler building.

A movie night will be held at 6 p.m. Monday in Room 109 of the Graham building showing “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape,” a movie that features a character with severe autism and a story of how it affects his family. The movie is open to the campus community with snacks provided. A brief discussion will follow the film.

At 10 a.m. on Friday, a campus run/walk, open to everyone on campus, will begin from the Nittany Lion statue in front of Pasco L. Schiavo Hall. The run is 2 miles and the walk is 1 mile.

“Much of my research focuses on the relationship between emotional wellness and the impacts of disability, so this friendly run and walk ties into that,” Huck said, adding that the student who displays the best Penn State spirit will win a prize.