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Week of events raise disability awareness

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[Dis]ability Awareness: SLU student Peter Vishneski talks about living with a disability on SLU’s campus. Ryan Quinn / Staff Photographer

[Dis]ability Awareness: SLU student Peter Vishneski talks about living with a disability on SLU’s campus.
Ryan Quinn / Staff Photographer

During the week of March 24, the Saint Louis University Student Occupational Therapy Association (SLU SOTA) is sponsoring Disability Awareness Week.

Members of SLU SOTA host Disability Awareness Week each year in March to raise awareness of how people with disabilities function independently in their daily lives.

Monday’s event featured a presentation from Peter Vishneski, a SLU student who sustained a spinal cord injury following a car accident almost two years ago. Around 80 students attended the talk where Vishneski, a current junior in the physical therapy program, talked about his hospital stays, rehabilitation journey and return to SLU after his accident. Vishneski spoke about the support he had while in recovery and how he learned to see the positive outcomes of living with his disability today.

SLU SOTA President Jaclyn Berlino thought Vishneski’s speech was both informative and inspirational.

“I thought it was interesting that we were able to hear a student’s perspective about living on campus with a disability. I loved how he didn’t let his disability stop him from living his life as a SLU student.”

Katie Brudek, a senior occupational therapy student, mentioned her delight in hearing how Vishneski’s therapists worked with him to regain the strength and ability to do everyday tasks.

“As an occupational therapy major, it was nice to hear about my own future profession in action. I loved hearing how Peter worked with the therapists to regain some of his function and independence.”

Vishneski’s presentation marked the first of three days of events during Disability Awareness Week.

The second event took place on Wednesday, March 26 at Webster Groves Ice Arena. SLU students were invited to attend a session presented by the two-time national champion St. Louis Blues Sled Hockey team, a team comprised of athletes with various types of disabilities including spinal cord injuries and spina bifida.

Brudek had the opportunity to try playing hockey with the team.

“It’s a lot harder than it looks. It took a lot of arm strength and coordination. It was literally incredible how well they played the game.”

Disability Awareness Week’s final event will take place on March 27 from 10:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m. near the clock tower. SLU SOTA members will be running an obstacle course using adaptive equipment and simulating how certain tasks and activities may be completed if a person was living with a disability.

Through all the events during the week, SLU SOTA members hope that students will take full advantage of the opportunity to learn about how the diagnosis of a disability can impact a person’s life.

“I would hope that people understand that people who live with a disabilities aren’t different. They’re the same as everyone else, they may just have to do things in different ways,” Berlino said.

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