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Disability as Diversity

The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Diversity Council was created last year to address a priority in the college's strategic plan "to enhance diversity across the college and foster a culture of inclusion" [CLAS Strategic Plan 2008 – 2020]. During this academic year, the Council has focused on the importance of disability as diversity. According to Brenda J. Allen, associate dean of planning and initiatives, the council's main goals are "to increase students' awareness of options for assistance and accommodations; to create a more supportive community for students with disabilities; and to provide opportunities for faculty and staff development related to students with disabilities."

Amy Vidali, disability studies scholar, assistant professor in the Department of English and chair of the disability committee at the university, has led the charge of addressing campus access issues and educating students, staff and faculty about all aspects of disability and inclusion. The committee has sponsored a few speakers on the topic over the last year. Vidali also was featured on the PBS series "A Wider World" in December about UC Denver's initiative called "Disability as Diversity." The show screened on KBDI in Denver and in other PBS markets that air the series.

The CLAS Diversity Council partnered with UC Denver's Office of Disability Resources and Services to sponsor two audio conferences conducted by the Association on Higher Education and Disabilities (AHEAD). One of these provided insights on "A Universal Approach Toward Academically Advising Students with Disabilities," and the other, entitled "Wounded Warriors: Campus-Wide Responses," addressed needs of military veterans with disabilities who are returning home to pursue postsecondary education options. The council also cosponsored a Disability as Diversity Festival on April 2 that included a performance by the Physically Handicapped Actors and Musical Artists' League.

"The CLAS Diversity Council is excited about our plans," says Allen. "We encourage you to share ideas for resources we might provide, programs we might develop, or speakers we might invite to campus. We also hope that you will participate in our events. We will value your guidance and support as we delve into disability matters."