Diverse abilities conference

Thursday, May 9 marked the third annual Diverse Abilities Conference. The topic of this conference was: “Multiple Boxes: Identity Issues Among Minorities with Disabilities.”

Phyllis Pettys, the director of the Assistive Technology Center, said that the idea for the conferences came in part from Anne Cohewn a student at Portland State University.

Cohewn, a student with multiple dystrophy, was a part of the American with Disabilities Act (ADA) Policy Committee

The Diverse Abilities Conference is a subcommittee of the ADA Policy Committee at Portland State University.

The Affirmative Action office controls the committee. The committee is comprised of various individuals around campus that discuss access issues on campus.

Pettys said the conferences have grown in size each year. There were approximately 115 people in attendance for the conference this year.

“It would be really great if students want to get involved for next year,” Pettys said.

The annual event needs student input. Students interested in getting involved should contact the Affirmative Action office.

Mark Azure, a trainer for the Deaf and Hearing Impaired Access Program for the Oregon Disabilities Commission, was the conference facilitator. He was a presenter at the first two Diverse Abilities Conferences at Portland State University.

Steve Hanamura discussed the topic of discrimination faced by people with disabilities who are minorities. Hanamura is the author of the book “In Search of Vision” in addition to many journal articles. He is the co-owner of Hanamura Consulting, Inc.

Milele Landrum is the co-president of the Learning Disabilities Association of Oregon and is on the National Board of Directors. Landrum is also the co-chair of the National Membership/Cultural Diversity Committee. Landrum spoke on the cultural and poverty barriers for minorities with various learning disabilities.

Janine Bertram Kemp spoke of how the “white” mental disability movement has excluded people of color. Kemp is the president of the Disability Rights Center of Washington, DC. Kemp is the widow of disabilities activist Evan Kemp Jr. She is accredited for getting support for the ADA.

Pettey’s described Kemp Jr. as one the “grandfathers” of the ADA.

Tina Singleton, an international development and disability consultant, spoke about the international disability rights movement. Singleton has 10 years of experience working with people with disabilities all around the world.

During the conference, poet and author Mariana Ruybalid read poetry from her book “Daring to Write.” Ruybalid’s book explores what it means to be a bi-racial person with cerebral palsy in society.

A reception followed the conference.

Conference was sponsored by the Portland State University ADA Committee, office of Affirmative Action, office of Student Development, Portland State University President’s Commission on the Status of Women Speaker’s Board, Literary Arts Council, Multicultural Center, Alumni Association, Disability Resource Center Students with Disabilities Union, Diversity Action Council, AAA Fund, Parking Office, Assistive Technology Center and the office of Academic Affairs.