Focus Awards for disability advocacy presented
2011 Focus Award winners (from left): Alexander Camarota, graduate student in the Master of Fine Arts program for creative writing; Kristopher Knotts, Web marketing and development manager in the Krannert School of Management; Ron Wright, director of the Campus Emergency Preparedness and Planning Office; Jefferson Howells, assistant project director of the Campus Emergency Preparedness and Planning Office; and Bernard Wulle, associate professor of aviation technology. (Purdue University photo/Mark Simons)
At Purdue's 11th Annual Focus Awards, four recipients were honored for outstanding contributions to furthering the University's commitment to disability accessibility and diversity.
This year's recipients were recognized Tuesday at the Disability Awareness Month reception, presented by the Office of Institutional Equity. Monica Bloom, interim director of OIE, hosted the event and introduced the day's speaker.
Eric Arauz, mental health advocate and inspirational speaker, shared his fight to overcome bipolar I disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, alcoholism and drug addiction.
Arauz, who attributes his recovery largely to Rutgers University, addressed this year's theme for Disability Awareness Month, "Cultivate Inclusion," by speaking of the energy and acceptance found on college campuses and the language and understanding a college education can bring to disabilities.
"I used books to save my life," Arauz said. "I decide what I can do. My efforts decide what I can do, not my disabilities or the stigmas surrounding them."
Bloom introduced Alysa Christmas Rollock, vice president for ethics and compliance, to present the 2011 Focus Awards to the following recipients:
Faculty: Bernard Wulle, associate professor of aviation technology. Wulle helped bring Able Flight, a scholarship program that partners with flight schools to provide aviation training to people with disabilities, to Purdue in 2010. The partnership between Able Flight and the Department of Aviation Technology has allowed two individuals with physical disabilities to earn their pilot certificates. Wulle looks forward to expanding the Able Flight partnership to help people with disabilities consider careers in aviation.
Staff: Kristopher Knotts, Web marketing and development manager in the Krannert School of Management. Knotts is a member of Purdue's Web Accessibility Committee, which was instrumental in generating the Web accessibility policy in March 2010. He created a self-guided training module and continues to assist Purdue departments with improving the accessibility of their websites. Knotts' work has increased information access for people with disabilities across campus.
Student: Alexander Camarota, graduate student in the Master of Fine Arts program for creative writing. Camarota explores deaf identity, American Sign Language and the deaf community in his work. He is a member of the Disability Resource Center peer mentor program and began a petition for closed captioning at Mackey Arena. As a result, Intercollegiate Athletics invited him to evaluate tests of the closed captioning system. Last spring Camarota received the PEFCU Award for creative nonfiction for a piece titled "Discapability," and he facilitated a workshop, "Writing the Disability. Breaking the Myth." Camarota will facilitate the workshop again this year.
Organization: Campus Emergency Preparedness and Planning Office. The office was created in 2006 and received the Emergency Management for Higher Education grant from the U.S. Department of Education. The Campus Emergency Preparedness and Planning Office developed an at-risk campus populations plan to provide guidance in all areas of emergency preparedness for people with disabilities. The office implemented a voluntary registry system for people who may need additional assistance in emergencies along with a mental health resource plan, which addresses mental health issues for students, faculty, staff and visitors.