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Thursday, May 19, 2022

Dining with Disabilities aimed at increasing inclusivity

<p>UF materials science and engineering junior Matt Wener, 21, wears earplugs and assists UF English senior Constance Hackler, 20, who wears a blindfold as part of the Dining with Disabilities event in the Reitz Union Rion Ballroom on Monday evening. Participants were challenged with an assigned disability to gain a better understanding of others’ lifestyles.</p>

UF materials science and engineering junior Matt Wener, 21, wears earplugs and assists UF English senior Constance Hackler, 20, who wears a blindfold as part of the Dining with Disabilities event in the Reitz Union Rion Ballroom on Monday evening. Participants were challenged with an assigned disability to gain a better understanding of others’ lifestyles.

The Reitz Union Rion Ballroom was filled with about 70 students Monday night who were blinded by bandanas, with socks on their hands or gesticulating wildly, all while eating roasted chicken and mashed potatoes.

The event, called Dining with Disabilities, was put on by Student Government’s disability affairs cabinet. Chairwoman Jillian Roberts said the mission of the event was to attempt to create a more inclusive community at UF.

“The purpose is to educate students in the UF community about disabilities, and to open their eyes to different ways of life,” she said. “Just because someone can’t see as well as you, hear as well as you, speak as well as you or move as well as you doesn’t make them any less valuable or important of a person.”

The event featured the simulation of four disabilities, said Roberts, a 20-year-old UF communications sciences and disorders junior.

Hearing loss was simulated with earplugs, vision loss with blindfolds and speech impairment with a drawing of a heart on the participants’ hand to remind them to stay silent.

Hemiplegia, where half of the body is paralyzed, was represented by covering the dominant hand with a tube sock, rendering it unusable for the night.

The event, funded by SG, featured four speakers. Each speaker talked about their personal journey and individual difficulties with his or her disability. Disabilities the speakers face included narcolepsy, autism, deafness and legal blindness.

One of the speakers, Haley Moss, is a high-functioning UF psychology sophomore with autism.

The 19-year-old called the event “absolutely great.” She said that what students experienced at this dinner is what every disabled person has to learn.

“You have to adapt," Moss said. "Everyone who doesn’t have arms eating dinner, everyone who is blind and had to be fed their food. That’s an adaption and you need extra help. You can still eat, you just have to do it a little differently.”

A version of this story ran on page 3 on 11/26/2013 under the headline "Dining with Disabilities aimed at increasing inclusivity"

UF materials science and engineering junior Matt Wener, 21, wears earplugs and assists UF English senior Constance Hackler, 20, who wears a blindfold as part of the Dining with Disabilities event in the Reitz Union Rion Ballroom on Monday evening. Participants were challenged with an assigned disability to gain a better understanding of others’ lifestyles.

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