By Ryan Cohen, MUTV-23 News Reporter

COLUMBIA- The Mizzou Disability Coalition held its annual Disability Culture Month panel Tuesday evening. 

The panel, hosted over Zoom this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, began with a slideshow presentation centered around the theme of “how to be an ally for the disabled community.” The slideshow touched on topics such as the meaning of an ally, how to properly refer to those with disabilities, types of disabilities and basic disability etiquette before moving into a key theme of the panel: the harms of “inspiration porn.”

Inspiration porn, according to the panel, is the portrayal of people with disabilities as inspirational solely or in part on the basis of their disability. The detrimental effects of inspiration porn were spelled out further in a video of a TED Talk that was played for the panel’s attendees. In the video, the late Stella Young, a comedian, former teacher and disability rights activist with a muscular disorder, discusses her own experiences with inspiration porn and argues that disabled people’s very existence should not be treated as inspirational.

The video was followed by a brief presentation on the importance of being educated on disability culture and some ways to be an effective advocate for disabled rights. 

The night concluded with a Q&A session hosted by Olivia Holler, the vice president of accessibility and adaptability on the MDC executive board. Holler interviewed a trio of former Mizzou graduates with disabilities about a number of topics related to their experiences being disabled as well as disability culture.

One recurring theme of the evening and the Q&A session in particular was the importance of making social spaces more accessible, something that Holler notes had personally given her the inspiration to get involved in the MDC.

“I am disabled myself and coming into college, I became very frustrated with things happening on campus that [were] inaccessible or not inclusive,” Holler says via email exchange. “So my passion and love (for disability rights activism) grew greatly.” 

Mckenzie Knapp, the MDC’s vice president of programming, reiterates Holler’s sentiments and further stresses the necessity of making Mizzou a more accessible campus.

“The Mizzou community needs to work on putting accessibility first,” writes Knapp over email. “Accessibility needs to be at the forefront of all events, buildings and campus life overall.”

Knapp also notes that the need to spread awareness about disabled culture is one of the main reasons why the panel is so significant.

 “It is important for Mizzou students to be educated on disabilities so all Mizzou students can support each other and make sure every student has a memorable college experience,” Knapp states.

Holler, too, stresses the need for Mizzou students to get involved in the fight for disabled rights, encouraging students to “continue to advocate, continue to educate, [and] listen to stories and experiences.”

 

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