NAU starts Disability Heritage Month with panel discussion, accessibility scavenger hunt

Oct. 3, 2019

The beginning of October marks the start of Disability Heritage Month, and Northern Arizona University is gearing up for a month of events designed to start a dialogue about inclusivity on campus and around the world. 

Disability Heritage Month is coordinated by the Commission on Disability Access and Design (CDAD) as well as a number of other groups that help sponsor the events. A list of all groups that will sponsor events in partnership with CDAD is available online. This annual celebration is dedicated to acknowledging individuals with disabilities at NAU and sparking conversations about how students, faculty and staff can empower people with disabilities in the community. 

“It is important to hold events for Disability Heritage Month every year to highlight the contributions individuals with disabilities have made, and continue to make, in our community and society,” said Jamie Axelrod, director of Disability Resources at NAU. “It is also important to use this time to remember that individuals with disabilities have a history of being excluded and removed from our communities. Having a time to celebrate the achievements and contributions of individuals with disabilities, as well as remember the discrimination the disability community faced, is how we keep our history and heritage alive.”

Disability Heritage Month also is a time for the NAU community to think about how their perceptions affect individuals with disabilities.

“At NAU, we truly believe it’s how people think about disability that limits the opportunities people with disabilities are given to reach their potential and that is the real ‘tragedy’,” said Matthew Wangeman, professor of disability studies. “Disability Heritage Month aims to counter those commonly held societal attitudes about disability and present a different side and a clearer view of disability. “

Events begin with a panel discussion on the Intersection of Mental Health and Identity from noon to 2 p.m. on Oct. 10. in the Student and Academic Services Auditorium (Bldg. 60,) which concerns issues related to mental health among diverse and intersectional populations. Other events include NAU 4 All Accessibility Scavenger Hunt, the 6thAnnual Sitting Volleyball Tournament and many more. 

The month will end with a look at the intersections of civil rights with the presentation The Black Panthers, The Butterfly Brigade and The United Farm Workers of America: Their Role in the Disability Rights Movement, on Oct. 30 from 6-8 p.m. in the Kitt Recital Hall, co-sponsored by IMQ. This event will look at the history of the Section 504 sit-in, a monumental event for disability rights, through the eyes of Paul Grossman, former chief regional attorney for the Office for Civil Rights. 

While Disability Heritage Month is a great opportunity to talk about how to cultivate a more inclusive environment for those with disabilities, it does not end there. 

“I think the most important thing that students, faculty and staff can do throughout the year is simply look at our community through the lens and perspective of people with disabilities,” Axelrod said. “Being aware of the potential barriers we create as we design physical, instructional and social environments is incredibly important. If we can recognize those barriers, we can work to remove them, break them down or simply design environments without barriers.”

For more information on Disability Heritage Month events, visit or contact CDAD at (928) 523-8686.