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The ATOU Disability-Awareness Program:Students meet and interact with two or more of ATOU’s volunteer speakers who have disabilities. These individuals share their insight and experiences with the students, allowing them to get to know the person, rather than merely seeing the disability. Whenever possible, students with disabilities who attend that school are invited to join with the ATOU program team to share their own story with their peers.

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Through activities and discussion, the three-hour, two-part program allows students to gain insight into the lives of individuals with disabilities. They learn about the challenges faced by individuals who are disabled and some of the ways they address their challenges.

In part one, students participate in a discussion regarding their own strengths and challenges, and view a video of individuals with disabilities involved in everyday activities, including sporting events, thereby breaking down the “us” and “them” mentality of “able-bodied.” vs. “disabled. Students participate at the following six “activity stations” (Please see Attachment F) that allow them to “walk a mile” in the shoes of someone with a disability:

Braille Activity Station: Students are introduced to Braille, and learn to write and read their name and other words in Braille;

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Mobility Cane Activity Station: Students close their eyes while using a white mobility cane to simulate what it may be like to have a visual disability;

Wheelchair Activity Station: Students learn “wheelchair etiquette” (the “how, when, and why” to offering assistance to wheelchair users). They also have the hands-on experience of operating a wheelchair around various obstacles and over different terrains (e.g. ramps, etc.);

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Orthotic/Prosthetic Device Activity Station: Students handle and learn about braces and artificial limbs;

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Autism Activity Station: Students participate in activities that help them understand the challenges of autism and give them the appropriate actions to create  and maintain a friendship with a child with autism;

Learning Disabilities Activity Station: Students participate in a mirror-writing exercise to simulate what it may be like to have a learning disability. Rather than looking down at the paper, students look in the mirror, to see the reflection of the paper as they write.

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