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Moe Project Helps Mount Students See the Ability in Disability

Moe feature

Teresa Dominguez, Erina Nichols and Dana Larkin Sauers pose with Emmit.

Ryan Dworski, C'20, is involved in Campus Ministry and Swing Dance Club, works for Learning Services and has made Dean's List for three straight years. He also is a person with autism. The Mount's culture, rooted in Catholic social teaching, has made Dworski feel welcome, especially by Campus Ministry. "They don't treat me different," said Dworski.

ethan-small.jpgDworski was one of the lecturers for The Moe Project, a week-long series of events to celebrate, educate, and inspire members of the Mount community concerning disabilities. The project was conceived by Teresa Dominguez, C'21, as a way to spread awareness about disabilities following the loss of her special needs brother Moe. Dominguez's work on the project was guided by Dana Larkin Sauers, director of iLEAD, and her aunt Erina Nichols.

While Dworski's self-identified social awkwardness makes it difficult for him to open a conversation, Mount students and staff typically start conversations, making him feel like he can open up, he shared. He goes to Mass four times a week, and he plans to live the Gospel by helping other students with disabilities in his career. In explaining that people with his condition love order and repetition, he noted that the rosary is an amazing prayer because it keeps him calm and gives him order through its repetition. Dworski credits Learning Services with helping him to excel academically.

In addition to Dworski's presentation, the week included two other expert speakers: Helene Protesch, director of Lekotec School in Atlanta, Georgia, where Moe Dominguez went to school, and Jack Trammell, Ph.D., chair of sociology, criminal justice, and human services, who was joined by adult student Brenda Brodbeck, C'20. Denise Marjorum, director of Learning Services, signed for the kickoff speaker.

trammell-small.jpgTrammell, who has studied disability stigma, offered what he termed "Emily Post for a Post ADA World," a collection of etiquette tips centered around respect for all individuals. He urged students to pay attention with all of their senses and to be "caring enough to find out what the right thing to do is in a situation." In addition, he advised:

  • Ask before you act.
  • Be sensitive about physical contact.
  • Think before you speak.
  • Don't make assumptions.

Brodbeck discussed some of her general research on disabilities as well as work on choice of language regarding disabilities. Language that is insulting to people brenda-small.jpgwith disabilities is embedded in many languages, said Brodbeck, who gave examples involving the words infermo (sick) and loco (insane).

Moe's teacher Protesch shared two beatitudes from her student that provide a glimpse at how people with disabilities want to be treated:

  • Blessed are you who walk with us in public places and ignore the stares of strangers, for in your friendship we feel good to be ourselves.
  • Blessed are you who never bid us to hurry up and, more blessed, you who do not snatch our tasks from our hands to do them for us, for often we need time rather than help.

Additional activities included a Mass celebrated by the Rev. Martin Moran, university chaplain, to pray for those with disabilities and special needs and their caretakers; participation of parents, family members and children with disabilities related to the Mount community; and provision of fact sheets about various disabilities and special needs to hundreds of Mount community members and visitors. The fact sheets were researched and written by students and professors.

iLEAD's Sauers intends to continue The Moe Project annually to promote equity for those with disabilities.