UMF student club sponsors Diversability Awareness Day


What: Awareness Day

Who: UMF Rehabilitation Club

When: 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. April 15

Where: UMF Olsen Student Center

FARMINGTON — Pooling their interest and training, students involved in the Rehabilitation Club at the University of Maine at Farmington will hold their annual spring Awareness Day on Thursday to show others what they do.

This year’s theme is Diversability, a term coined by a former advertising executive in England, Max Burt, who was confined to a wheelchair after a vehicle accident, Caroleann “CC” Cookingham said.

Diversability promotes the concept that no one has a disability, just diverse abilities. People with disabilities are not defined by their disabilities. It’s just a part of who they are, club member Samantha Ross said.

“They are a person first. It’s part of a rehabilitation model that describes them as one who uses a wheelchair rather than being in a wheelchair,” Cookingham said.

One highlight of the day will be a live interview with Burt in England from 2 to 3 p.m. via the Internet. It will be held in the North Dining Hall.

During prior communication with him, “he seemed pleased that his concept made it across the pond all the way to us,” Cookingham said.

Other speakers include representatives from Central Maine Adaptive Sports at 9 a.m., Capitol Clubhouse at 9:45 a.m., Pine Tree Society at 1 p.m. and a Maine Handicapped Skiing demonstration at 2 p.m., all in the Student Center.

Faculty Adviser Chad Duncan said students put the program together. Chairmen are Ross, Cookingham and Kelly Shufelt.

“Club members have a common interest, an individual and social responsibility. It’s a good venue for more real world opportunities,” Duncan said.

One student, who has requested a table at Awareness Day but is not connected with the club, will take pledges for a unicycle ride from Vermont to West Quoddy Point in Maine in May. The student, who will graduate this May, lost his father to melanoma and the ride is planned to raise funds for melanoma research, he said.

Meeting once a week, the 15 members spend time planning community service projects and fundraisers such as a recent wheelchair rugby match between the University of New Hampshire quad rugby team and UMF professors and students at UMF. It gave students and community members a chance to try their hand at rugby from a wheelchair.

Once a semester the club holds Kids Day where they watch children from the community so parents can do other things. They also hold bake sales and recently collected flip-flops to send to Haitian children affected by this year’s earthquake.

Some of their fundraising work allows students to attend a national conference on rehabilitation education. Seven students and the adviser attended one last fall in Washington, D.C., where they networked with professionals from across the country, talked with graduate students on what to expect and attended educational sessions, Ross said.

On Thursday, the club invited the public to browse the tables in the Student Center and attend any of the Awareness Day sessions to learn more about their work.

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