DOWNINGTOWN — More than a quarter of a century has passed since March was established as Disability Awareness Month. The Chester County Intermediate Unit (CCIU) is not only committed to supporting the accomplishments of the past, but also to shift the mindset to “all abilities” as opposed to “disabilities.”
In an effort to bring a higher level of awareness to students of all abilities, CCIU is partnering with Chester County art teachers and students in grades 6-12 for a fun, artistic challenge.
Art teachers were invited to engage their students in developing a shoe design that best represents and articulates the awareness, acceptance and celebration of all abilities. Each participating school reviewed submissions and selected one top design to be submitted to CCIU for placement in the 2017 online contest. Submitted designs will be featured on the CCIU website and promoted on social media. The community is encouraged to vote for their favorite design between March 27–31 at www.cciu.org/shoecontest.
The winning shoe design will be brought to life by Kelsey Amy, a custom shoe painter, and the winning student artist will be presented with the final shoes to keep.
This is the second year CCIU has been conducting this awareness initiative. Last year’s contest focused on Autism Awareness and was met with great success.
In addition to the shoe design contest, CCIU is working with the community to enhance awareness and acceptance through several other outlets. Local libraries are showcasing reading lists for adults, young readers and children as well as hosting free, interactive workshops. Local schools are reading facts and tips on their morning announcements in order to inform and inspire children about the awareness and support of all abilities.
CCIU is hosting a lobby event on March 29 in which students with all abilities will greet and answer any questions visitors have as they enter the building on Boot Road in Downingtown. The County Cup will provide free coffee service and light grab and go refreshments to visitors, and students from the Child and Career Development Center will prepare cookies for the event.
An employer recognition breakfast is also being held in the month of April. The CCIU Discover program has developed community partnerships with 174 local businesses who open their doors each week to students throughout Chester County, supported by job coaches, to explore vocational interests and learn work readiness skills for future employment.
“The employer recognition breakfast offers an opportunity to thank our community partners for the opportunities they provide for our students. Without these partners we would not have such meaningful and diverse experiences for students to learn more about the world of work, but also their own interests and abilities related to their goals for transition to employment,” said Laurie Masino, CCIU Community-Based Instruction supervisor. “Thirty-four of these businesses have offered employment opportunities to students as they, too, have recognized the value each individual brings to the workplace.”
CCIU offers a multitude of programs for individuals with all types of abilities from preschool through adulthood. To find more information on programs offered or events highlighted above, please visit www.cciu.org/abilityaware.