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UTEP’s Ability Awareness Week Promotes Inclusion

Last Updated on October 09, 2017 at 8:00 AM

Originally published October 09, 2017

By UC Staff

UTEP Communications

Scientists who did not let their disabilities keep them from pursuing interesting careers will be among the keynote speakers during Ability Awareness Week (AAW) activities Oct. 16-20, 2017, at The University of Texas at El Paso.

A popular AAW event is the annual wheelchair basketball game.
A popular AAW event is the annual wheelchair basketball game.

“Inclusion Drives Innovation” is the theme of this year’s program, which includes presentations and a career and resource fair. Activities are free and open to the public.

One of the week’s highlights will be “Building STEM Pathways for Students with Disabilities” at 8:30 a.m. Wednesday, Oct. 18, 2017, in the Tomás Rivera Conference Center on the third floor of Union Building East. Jeanine Cook, Ph.D., principal member of the technical staff of Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and Dean C. Hines, Ph.D., a scientist at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, will be the main speakers. Hines will speak via Skype.

Neelam Agarwal, Ed.D., assistant director of UTEP’s Center for Accommodations and Support Services, said she hopes this year’s speakers inspire UTEP students to consider careers in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics).

Agarwal said she expects Cook, a paraplegic, and Hines, who has mild cerebral palsy, to talk about their personal journeys, career assistance, and coping mechanisms. This information could motivate students who did not grow up in a college culture and were not encouraged to dream big.

“(Cook and Hines) are role models who are changing misperceptions,” Agarwal said, adding that people with disabilities are highly underrepresented in the STEM fields. “Their message is to not give up if you have the dream, the passion and the aptitude. Just go for it.”

Another popular AAW event is the annual wheelchair basketball game at 6 p.m. Monday, Oct. 16, at the Don Haskins Center. The match is between the El Paso Air Wheelers and the Fort Bliss Wounded Warriors, which includes some UTEP students.

The week also will include “CapABLE Voices: The Photovoice of Students with Disabilities,” from 2 to 6 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 19, in the Union Gallery on the second floor of Union Building East.

The exhibit of more than 70 photos and stories, funded by NASPA (Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education) is a work of about 15 UTEP students with disabilities, including some invisible chronic illnesses such as lupus or a mental health condition, who share their campus and life experiences. Information from these videos has generated awareness and positive changes around campus.

Click here for a complete list of UTEP’s 2017 Ability Awareness Activities.