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GCU’s Disability Awareness Panel Focuses on Experiences of Students With Different Abilities

Respect core value sign

People living with disabilities want to be seen and heard just like anyone else, according to several Georgian Court University students who spoke candidly at a recent Disability Awareness Month event.

An October 5 panel discussion, hosted by GCU’s Academic Development & Support Center (ADSC), included students with disabilities such as autism, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), anxiety, hearing impairments, cerebral palsy, and more. The group shared personal experiences and shared insight for their peers and university professionals:

  • When writing or speaking about people with disabilities, put the person first. Focus on the person, not the disability. For example, the “person is blind,” the “child who is deaf,” the “individual with a disability.” Always choose words that reflect individuality, equality, and dignity.
  • Refer to people as having different abilities, especially since there is no state of normal, in general. One panelist pointed out that they had been living with a disability all their life and didn’t know any other way of being.
  • Don’t judge a book by its cover, especially when it comes to invisible disabilities and illnesses.

The college students also answered questions relating to COVID-19 and the additional challenges posed by the pandemic. A student who is hard of hearing couldn’t read lips because of masks and found that some people spoke softer when wearing a mask—problems that made the student feel a loss of human connection.

In addition, a student with ADHD found online learning and studying at home was too distracting. Instead, they learned better when face to face with faculty.

A few panelists added that they struggle with social skills, which presents a challenge on a college campus. But social interactions don’t have to be difficult. Instead, they offered familiar words of advice to their peers: be respectful and patient, accept people for who they are, and treat others how you would like to be treated.

Story contributed by Georgian Court University digital communication major Alycia Bardon ’22

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About Georgian Court University

Georgian Court University is a leading regional university that provides a transformative education, preparing students for ethical leadership and service in the Catholic Mercy tradition. Founded in 1908 and sponsored by the Sisters of Mercy, Georgian Court University is Central and South Jersey’s only Catholic university. The university has a strong liberal arts core and a historic special concern for women.

As a forward-thinking university that supports diversity and academic excellence, GCU is known for expanding possibility for more than 1,900 students of all faiths and backgrounds in 35+ undergraduate majors and 10+ graduate programs. The GCU Lions compete in 15 NCAA Division II sports in the Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference (CACC). In 2020, GCU was named a Best Value College by Money.com and a Best Bang for the Buck (Northeast) by Washington Monthly. High student retention and graduation rates make GCU a Top Performer on Social Mobility on U.S. News & World Reports rankings.

The main campus is in Lakewood, New Jersey, on the picturesque former George Jay Gould estate, a National Historic Landmark. Georgian Court, which is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, also serves students through its Center for Professional Studies, and at other locations, including GCU at Brookdale, GCU at Rowan College of South Jersey–Cumberland Campus, and through multiple online degree and certificate programs.