Julia Trachy is tired of the wisecracks.
Whether it’s seeing people ridicule those in wheelchairs or simply assuming disabled people struggle through life, the first-year nursing student said she hears the comments on campus and feels hurt by them.
“I can’t stand that,” she said.
People don’t see her disability – depression and attention deficit disorder – but she and many more students in the Disabled Student Cultural Center said they hope a new campaign on campus changes views on the physically or mentally challenged.
The center launched the See 3: See Disability, See Ability, See Me campaign last month by distributing buttons. This week, group members also posted banners and are planning more contests and events for the future.
Trachy will be the next president of the group and said she feels good about seeing others wear the “See 3” buttons around campus.
“I feel like some people look at me differently after they can see my disability,” she said.
But after they start to get to know the person she is, Trachy said, they realize having a disability doesn’t take over her life.
“It doesn’t control my life; it’s not just a flaw in my life,” she said.
She said she hopes people look at the entire person she is, instead of focusing on her disability.
“It doesn’t make me any different from any other person ñ that’s just who I am,” she said.
John Lukanen, the center’s co-director, organized much of the effort on campus. Lukanen said he is visually impaired.
“When you see someone in a wheelchair, what do you notice, the wheelchair or the person?” he said.
Most people only see the wheelchair, he said. Lukanen said he hopes the campaign helps people change the way they view things and ultimately see the person.
Board member Courtney Miller said the campaign aims to tell others that people should be seen for who they are and not just their disabilities. Miller has syringomyelia, a rare spinal cord condition that requires her to wear a brace.
“Personally, I get stared at a lot, because this thing looks really weird,” Miller said. “They say things like ‘Oh, you poor thing.’ And when they say things like that, they’re not seeing me.”
Miller said she doesn’t have a problem with the attention the brace draws, because she is used to it.
“I don’t have a problem with it because people are curious, but I would rather have them come ask me than just stare,” she said.
The campaign has been positive so far, Miller said.
“When I’m walking on campus and I see those posters, I feel really proud and not weird anymore,” she said.
Trachy said people with disabilities don’t want others to focus on their disabilities, much like people who don’t want to be only seen for their ethnicity.
“They don’t want people to just look at them for their culture. They want people to embrace them as a person,” she said.
As many as 300 students participate in the center, Trachy said.