LEMOORE – Some people raced down a designated course in wheelchairs. Others attempted to grab faux cash in a wind tunnel known as the cash cube while blindfolded. In both cases it was to help people get a feel of what it’s like to have a disability.
But there was more than just activities like these at West Hills College Lemoore’s Operation Awareness event Wednesday at the Pedersen-Semas Plaza near the campus’ Learning Resource Center.
Organizations running programs on and off of the campus set up tables at the event while doing outreach to inform students and the public what they could offer to people with disabilities. And that was the goal of the event, which falls during National Disability Awareness Month, said Lataria Hall, West Hills Lemoore’s Associate Dean of categorical programs.
“There are a lot of people who don’t even know we’re on campus,” Hall said. “We try to bring people in with food. We try to bring them in with music. And once here, hopefully they can find stuff out when they’re in a group.”
Operation Awareness has grown each year, Hall said. Previously, the college held the event in a classroom then moved it outdoors. Last year, it was outside of the Golden Eagle Arena. Hall estimated that the event has been going on about five years.
“We used to do it on a smaller scale,” Hall said. “It’s gotten a little bigger now.”
One of the booths at the event included one from the Department of Rehabilitation, which helps provide the training and jobs for people with disabilities.
Staff from the Kings County Office of Education gave information about disabled people in the workplace and information about workmen’s compensation.
There were also other programs available, including the DRAW program, which stands for Depression Reduction Achieving Wellness, which serves Tulare and Kings County.
Seng Leang Tang-Hignojoz, who is a DRAW program counselor, said the program offers things such as free confidential counseling for students. Things that could be discussed included anything from being depressed about a relationship ending to how to deal with stress. They can also refer people to other resources or agencies, Tang-Hignojoz said.
“We do events like this just to let (students) be aware of us,” Tang-Hignojoz said.
West Hills College Lemoore student Heather Molina found Wednesday’s event informative.
She had previously been helped by Disabled Students Program and Services (DSPS), which offers specialized support services and assistive equipment to people with disabilities. Some things they can offer include reader services, note-takers, test proctoring and sign language interpreting among other things.
“DSPS has helped me out with what I’ve had trouble with,” Molina said.
Tang-Hignojoz said Wednesday is one way for students to just know there’s help out there.
Said Tang-Hignojoz: “It’s just a way we can support students.”