Traveling disability exhibit comes to FHSU

FHSU University Relations and Marketing

by Randy Gonzales

HAYS, Kan. — Fort Hays State University will host the Ability Ally Initiative on campus Sept. 9-11. The traveling exhibit focuses on awareness and inclusion of people with disabilities.

“Allies for Inclusion: The Ability Exhibit” was created by Saint Louis University graduate students in the disability in higher education and society course under Dr. Karen Myers. The interactive exhibit debuted at SLU in October 2010. This is the first time the exhibit will be at a Kansas school.

According to the SLU website, using a multi-media approach to demonstrate respect, comfort and awareness, the exhibit’s seven interactive stations offer suggestions for becoming disability allies and educators.

“There’s a variety of different things that will cover a lot of different ability-type issues,” said Dr. Patti Griffin, director of the Academic Advising and Career Exploration Center. “They don’t tell you what happens at every station in advance. There’s a lot of technology involved.”

This year is the 25th anniversary for the Americans with Disabilities Act.

“That is huge, not just in higher ed, but in everything, in providing equal opportunity for access to students of any ability,” Griffin said.

Brian Atwell, executive director of LINK Inc., Living Independently in Northwest Kansas, graduated from FHSU in 1986 with a degree in business administration.

“When I first came to campus at Fort Hays State I was pretty impressed the way things were laid out,” said Atwell, who got around in his wheelchair.

Atwell credited former vice president for student affairs Bill Jellison for understanding his needs.

“Bill Jellison, he was very receptive and welcoming,” Atwell said. “One of the things he said was we’ll do whatever it takes to make this work for you.

“They had to make a few curb cuts between Wiest Hall and over the main quad area,” Atwell said. “I drove around in my wheelchair unless the weather was really, really bad. I didn’t just hop into my van and drive over to Rarick Hall.”

Atwell said former FHSU President Edward H. Hammond also was concerned with student disabilities.

“About the time Dr. Hammond started was when things started changing,” Atwell said. “He did so many new things.”

An avid sports fan, Atwell used to have his wheelchair in the walkway in front of the first row of seats at Lewis Field Stadium. He is now able to use an elevator and have his wheelchair on an open landing by the press box.

“I really don’t have any complaints at all,” Atwell said.

Nicole Dublin, Hilliard, Ohio, graduate student, has been on campus since last fall. She said FHSU officials were helpful with her learning disability, attention deficit.

“Their reaction was really supportive, really interested in how to accommodate my needs,” she said. “One of the things they do is to provide an alternate text to assist with comprehension and processing. They do a really good job of providing programs that will help me meet my needs.”

The Kansas Academic Advising Network (KAAN) has its state conference Friday, Sept. 11, on the FHSU campus. On Wednesday, Sept. 9, the Kansas Student Affairs Conference (KSAC) will host its state conference at FHSU.

Griffin and Vincent Bowhay, assistant director of the Memorial Union, worked together to bring SLU’s traveling exhibit on campus at the same time as their conferences. The exhibit, which is also open to the public, will be in the Fort Hays Ballroom in the Memorial Union. It is open from 8:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 9, and Thursday, Sept 10. On Friday, Sept. 11, the exhibit is open from 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

Myers, who is visually impaired, will speak at both conferences. She will speak to the KSAC conference at 9:15 a.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 9, and at 8:45 a.m. on Friday, Sept. 11, at the KAAN conference. She also will give an address to FHSU faculty, staff and students at 3:30 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 10. All three speeches will be in the Fort Hays Ballroom.

Sponsoring the exhibit is the Office of Student Affairs, the Kelly Center, the Provost office, the College of Education and the Tilford Diversity Awareness Committee.

If a school class or organization wants to tour the exhibit, contact Griffin’s office at or 785-628-5577.

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