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Saturday, January 22, 2022

Twelve community and student organizations gathered on the Reitz Union North Lawn on Wednesday afternoon to network for the Disability Awareness Fair.

The fair marks the third out of five events taking place this week for Student Government's Disability Awareness Week.

Disability Affairs Director Meredith Raymond, 21, is a political science junior with cerebral palsy.

"Getting involved with Gatorship and seeing the diversity of UF changed my view of the disability community," Raymond said. "Now it's my chance to give back and use my voice for change."

Raymond said the mission of this week is to represent the spectrum of disabilities.

"Each disability is different, people shouldn't stereotype," she said. "I've found that people with disabilities have a powerful determination and perseverance."

Raymond said this week is about inspiring students through telling testimonies and stories, and spreading awareness of how much people with disabilities can do.

Jim Faubel, learning specialist at the Disability Resource Center, hopes the fair provides exposure to the different resources available for students with disabilities.

Faubel said there's a stigma surrounding accommodations for people with disabilities.

The accommodations that students with mental health disabilities, learning disabilities, physical disabilities or sensory impairments get don't provide an advantage but actually level the playing field, Faubel said.

"Students want to try to blend in and be like everyone else - but really what is being like everybody else?" he said. "It's good to recognize your differences and ask for help. And that's what we're trying to promote here."

Health and science junior Jennifer Alexander, 20, said, "It's in the syllabus of every single class, but students don't really know what it is."

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Alexander wants to change that.

She works and is registered at the Disability Resource Center, but it took her a while to accept it and come out about it.

Registered for general anxiety disorder and auditory processing speed issues, she receives accommodations like extended test time and a quiet testing area.

"I started realizing that it didn't matter what people thought," Alexander said. "We are no different. We struggle with different things, but we're people just like you.

"I'm still a person," she said. "Just because I have a disability doesn't mean I'm incapable or incompetent."

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