The 13th February 2017 sees the return of Don’t DisAbility Week, an event designed to raise awareness of disabilities across the universities.
The week-long event was founded by Mackinlay Ingham last year, and its success prompted the creation of FXU Don’t DisAbility Society in September. The theme this year is ‘Making the ‘Invisible’ Visible’, putting focus on both mental illnesses and disabilities which are not obvious to the naked eye. It is also going to be raising money for the Invictus Trust and the Wave Project, two charities which offer support and opportunities for people with disabilities in Cornwall.
There are events on throughout the week across both campuses, intended to raise awareness of these invisible illnesses:
On Monday there is going to be an information fair in the Compass, with a bake sale and stalls from; the society themselves, their chosen charities, the Student Support Service, and the Liberation Committee. The fair is going to be repeated at Woodlane Campus on the Friday.
Throughout Tuesday the team will be ‘Spreading the Love’, handing out flyers, information packs, and goodies to everyone on campus. In the evening a politics discourse is going to be held, debating whether adjustments for disabled students are fair.
On Wednesday night there is a panel event being held in the Air building on campus, where speakers from the universities and the charities will be relating their own experiences, and will be holding a Q and A session for the audience. This event is £5 a ticket, which includes food.
Thursday is going to see the return of the Body Positivity Shoot, which was a huge success last year. Anyone can have a fifteen minute photoshoot, which is designed to show the beauty in everybody.
Alongside all of these events, Don’t DisAbility Society are teaming up with Humans of Falmouth all week, focusing on people with dyspraxia, dyslexia, dyscalculia, and dysgraphia. They will be talking to people in the compass, and sharing their stories on social media.
I visited the society on Saturday, where they were in the midst of recording a short film exposing the realities of living with an invisible illness. Students were telling the camera the ways in which they are affected in their day to day lives, but also explaining how these illnesses will not hold them back, nor hinder them from achieving their goals. It was inspiring to be among them, and hear their stories. The film is due to be aired on 10th February at Concourse, in the AMATA building, to kick start the week a few days early.
The importance of raising awareness of these invisible illnesses was made clear by some members of the society: ‘it’s a chance for the university community to acknowledge a group of people that are under acknowledged, and to understand that we’re not all their stereotypical… we’re not all in wheelchairs, we are a diverse group of people and we’ve got all different talents. It’s a chance to break the barriers of what people perceive as a disability.’
The week is also intended to highlight the wide range of abilities that the society welcome and support. Vice President Lucy explained that ‘it needs to be more of a thing that people understand that we’re a society that covers everything; if you have something about you that makes you different, we’re there to support you.’
Founder and President of the Society, Mackinlay Ingham, left us with this statement: ‘the Don’t DisAbility Society is a celebration of all abilities. It’s about providing one platform for all abilities. The Don’t DisAbility Week this year is about making the invisible visible, it’s about showing people the amazing things that people can achieve despite really, really hard conditions. What makes it harder is that people can’t see, so people don’t automatically make exceptions, they find it even more hard to understand. We’ve all been there with mental health. The black dog scenario – who came up with that? That’s not accurate! We have such a huge group of talented students who are putting their own, personal experience into this week and I think that’s what is going to make it even better than last year.’