The Eastern Michigan University Brehm Scholars Alumni Association and the Dolores Soderquist Brehm Center for Special Education Scholarship and Research held their third annual conference, Connecting the Dots: Stories that Matter, on Nov. 21.
The purpose of this conference was to raise awareness about people with disabilities and provide inclusiveness for these individuals in society. There were 25 presenters at this conference with about 75 individuals in attendance.
Sarah Mueller, one of the organizers for this event is an EMU Brehm Scholar. She said there is not enough awareness about people with disabilities.
“The intent of this conference is to share stories with others and share personal experiences with disability,” Mueller said. “We want to create a sense of community within Eastern by spreading awareness – and within the larger community.”
Through a series of poster presentations and oral sessions, presenters shared their personal experiences about disability. One presenter, Jason DeCamillis who is also an EMU graduate and a Brehm Scholar, is creating a documentary about being legally blind and pursuing flight instruction.
“The traditional notions of disability are exclusionary by nature, so they are designed to label some people as one thing and other people as another,” DeCamillis said. “I never thought I would be able to fly. A lot of this is teachers and educators and communities coming together to say that there are things people say that you can and cannot do, but we’re going to work together to support each other.”
This year’s Connect the Dots conference had a focus on sharing stories with ourselves and with others about disability inclusion and building community.
The sharing of stories can be powerful and sometimes even humorous, according to speaker Patricia Carver, who has a brother with special needs. Carver said in her presentation that we must encourage the sharing of stories, and even add humor to them to indicate that we made it past the more difficult part of our lives.
Sydney Hull, a junior pursuing a degree in elementary special education, said that this event is an important discussion for people of different schooling backgrounds.
“I think this event opens up the floor for different majors and careers to see other positions that encompass disabilities,” Hull said.
For more information on the program, go to http://www.emich.edu/brehm/index.html.