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Disability awareness month embraces diversity in university setting

Matt+Pashby+in+the+Donnelly+Center+for+Non+Profit+Communications+where+he+is+Assistant+Student+Director+Photo+credit%3A+Mairead+Cahill
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Disability awareness month embraces diversity in university setting

Matt Pashby in the Donnelly Center for Non Profit Communications where he is Assistant Student Director Photo credit: Mairead Cahill

Matt Pashby in the Donnelly Center for Non Profit Communications where he is Assistant Student Director Photo credit: Mairead Cahill

Matt Pashby in the Donnelly Center for Non Profit Communications where he is Assistant Student Director Photo credit: Mairead Cahill

Matt Pashby in the Donnelly Center for Non Profit Communications where he is Assistant Student Director Photo credit: Mairead Cahill

Mairead Cahill

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Growing up in school, everything took Matt Pashby just a little bit longer than his classmates. Copying down work, writing papers and researching topics would not be as easy for him as it appeared to be to his fellow peers.

“I had teachers pass me off as lazy or that I wasn’t trying hard enough in school,” Pashby said.

The true reason for his struggles were revealed in his sophomore year of high school, when he was diagnosed with a set of learning disabilities.

“I have a processing disorder, short-term memory loss and anxiety when it comes to testing,” Pashby said. “The processing disorder means it takes more time for me to do things. I’ll get the stuff done but it will just take a little longer.”

That made it difficult for Pashby when it came to doing well on papers.

“The short-term memory loss happens a lot when I’m doing research, writing papers, when I’m trying to copy. Instead of looking at something once and copying it down on paper, I’ll have to look back and forth like nine times,” he said.

While Pashby’s learning disabilities affect how he processes information and organizes himself, Pashby has learned to embrace how his disabilities force him to view and approach tasks in a different and often more creative manner.

“I didn’t want to be ‘that kid’ with disabilities, I didn’t want to go to a separate room to take tests,” Pashby said.

He’s just finished up as the recruitment chair for Pi Kappa Psi Fraternity, and he is also the assistant student director of the Donnelley Center, Interfraternity Council president, a work-study student for Ignacio Volunteers, a member of the 2018 Loyola Bateman team and sits on the student advisory board for students with disabilities, all while holding down two off-campus jobs as well.

“It’s just something that’s different, I have to find different ways of doing things and keep myself in check,” he said.

Pashby thinks it is common for people to underestimate individuals with disabilities.

“I’ve had so many times where people have said to me ‘oh I never thought you would have learning disabilities’ just because of such and such that I’ve done in the past,” he said.

Embracing what students with disabilities bring to Loyola’s campus has been the focus of Disability Awareness Month this October.

A variety of sessions have been offered by the Office of Disability Services throughout the month to raise awareness of and support students with disabilities in an effort to get the university to have a more inclusive approach.

“We want to encourage discussions on campus that focus on how to promote diverse minds and bodies rather than how to normalize them,” Richelle Voelker, director of disability services at Loyola, said.

The awareness month comes at a pivotal time for the Office of Disability Services as it change its approach on how they support and advise students.

“Disability Awareness Month provides ODS with the opportunity to highlight the significant changes we are making as we shift the disability paradigm from the medical model, which views disability as a problem with the individual, to the social justice model, which views disability as a problem with the environment,” Voelker said. “With this shift, we hope to improve understanding of disabilities and increase awareness of the resources we can provide.”

Now in his third year at Loyola, Pashby had nothing but praise for the support provided by the Office of Disability Services.

“With Loyola, it was really refreshing, they were really accommodating,” Pashby said. “It was super easy. I just went through a little bit of a formal process just to show them where I was at.”

While he does not rely as heavily on the support of disability services as he did in high school, Pashby has remained a strong advocate for people with disabilities and thinks events such as Disability Awareness Month will help in ending stigmas.

“There is a huge stigma on their capacity to do things and it’s just a case of reminding people that students with disabilities are exceptional leaders and students,” he said. “I love people with disabilities because everyone is going to go down the path to the right, but students with disabilities are going to go any other direction that they can find. There is a norm for education that we just don’t fit into.”

Although October is drawing to a close, students can still get involved in Disability Awareness Month and can drop in to the Student Success Center or visit their website www.loyno.edu/success/disability -services to find out about events and opportunities.

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Disability awareness month embraces diversity in university setting