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Diversifying diversity

Observer Viewpoint | Thursday, February 19, 2004

While race, gender, sexual preference and religion contribute significantly to the Notre Dame community’s definition of “diversity,” another group of students on campus equally promotes diversity. Students with disabilities overcome obstacles and challenges on a daily basis.

Approximately 110 Notre Dame students have disabilities. There are currently Notre Dame students with visual impairments, hearing impairments, learning disabilities, cerebral palsy and other disabilities.

Today’s Observer insert on diversity featured three articles on race, four articles on gender, two articles on sexual preference, one on religion and none on disability. Disabilities are often overlooked as a part of diversity.

In 1998, Tim Cordes was the first blind student to be the Notre Dame valedictorian.

In 1995, the Office for Students with Disabilities was built to provide students with disabilities the same opportunity to enjoy a Notre Dame education as the non-disabled students. Located in the back of Badin Hall, the Office for Students with Disabilities is not large enough to accommodate the number of students with disabilities that require assistance.

Students who use wheelchairs have discovered that Notre Dame is not the most accessible place for them. It was also in 1995 that Notre Dame made its first attempt to increase disability awareness. Only been in the last few years that Notre Dame Disability Awareness Week has generated support from the university.

To exclude or ignore the value of students with disabilities suggests that Notre Dame is failing to widen its perception of diversity. What is diversity here if part of the diversity that exists is not equally recognized?

Diversity means being open minded and looking beyond ourselves to the needs, struggles and value of others. If we are going to strive for a commitment to diversity, we must be sure we are not leaving out a valuable part of our Notre Dame family.

Laura HoffmanSeniorLyons HallFeb. 18