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Harvard Hosts First ‘Disability as Diversity’ Celebration

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Harvard Disability Resources hosted its first “Disability as Diversity” celebration on Wednesday in honor of National Disability Employment Awareness Month.

Organized by Kate Higgins, associate director of University Disability Resources, the event aimed to recognize Harvard affiliates with disabilities. The celebration, which took place in the Science Center Plaza, featured speeches, booths, and a musical performance.

Higgins said in an interview that the event hoped to increase representation for people with disabilities.

“We are the largest marginalized group, spanning all race, ethnicity, age, gender identity, sexual orientation,” Higgins said. “Twenty-six percent of people in the U.S. experience disability.”

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“We are here, we want to be heard, we want to be seen, and we want to be included. And that's really what this is all about: representation and inclusion,” she added.

Director of the University Disability Access Office Grace Moskola, who helped organize the event, said there is “power in identifying as disabled.”

Harvard held a similar event for Disability Awareness Month in July. The organizers decided to host a second celebration in the fall while students are on campus and hope to turn both into annual traditions.

The event also featured booths hosted by Harvard and Boston-area organizations with resources for people with disabilities and allies.

Higgins said she had a positive experience organizing the event with a team of “incredible people helping and leading the charge.”

“We have twenty-seven organizations and groups represented here today, which is really terrific,” she said.

Director of University Disability Resources Kate Upatham, who delivered an opening speech, said in an interview that the event offers an opportunity for all to celebrate disability.

“It's a great opportunity to just celebrate disability and have an event where everybody is welcome: people with disabilities and allies are welcome,” Upatham said.

Upatham said the event aimed to cover a wide variety of disabilities.

“We've got mental health concerns represented, we've got mobility impairments represented, we've got sensory disabilities represented,” Upatham said. “We tried to have the spectrum there, and then also other groups that support the work around people with disabilities in our community, and student groups as well.”

Grace Givertz, an Allston resident, shared her personal experience living with a disability through a musical performance at the event.

“People who are not disabled have a very kind of boxed idea of what disability looks like,” Givertz said.

“I just think it’s important to be visible and to give voices for people who don’t usually have them,” she added.

Though this is the first event of its kind, Higgins said she hopes it will leave a lasting legacy.

“I've been hearing wonderful stories about people who just feel so connected to this community today and that didn't necessarily have those feelings before,” Higgins said. “That's what we want to see as a result of these events.”

—Staff Writer Darley A. C. Boit can be reached at darley.boit@thecrimson.com.

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