The Florida A&M Center for Disability Access and Resources, also known as CeDAR, presented alumnus Kevin Williams with its highest honor at the fourth annual CeDAR Honors Wednesday.
In celebration of Disability Awareness Month, students, faculty and guests gathered in the School of Architecture’s atrium as CeDAR recognized Williams and other individuals on campus and in neighboring communities, presenting them with awards for their accomplishments.
“Our intent is to honor individuals and groups who we believe are ‘walking the talk,’ ” CeDAR Director Danette Saylor said.
Students were recognized for their leadership roles on campus and awarded scholarships for their academic excellence at the university.
Williams, an assistant professor of health care leadership at Mercer University www.mercer.edu, was presented with the Trailblazer Award in honor of his advocacy for students with learning disabilities.
He served as the keynote speaker at the “Brunch & Learn Workshop” hosted by CeDAR on Wednesday morning.
At the luncheon, Williams spoke about his published study featuring FAMU: “A Study of Self-Determination Skill of Students with Learning Disabilities at Selected Historically Black Universities http://athenaeum.libs.uga.edu/handle/10724/12734.”
Williams acclaimed FAMU for having one of the leading programs in the country for students with learning disabilities.
Having three learning disabilities of his own, Williams said that it is important for universities to expose college students with learning disabilities, especially freshmen, to advocacy and self-determination skills that would help them to be successful in the future.
“Disability does not mean that you can’t do,” Williams said. “As long as the accommodations are there for a disability, they can succeed.”
Saylor said students should not be embarrassed by their disabilities but empowered.
“When you embrace who you are, you open up so many windows for opportunities than when you don’t,” Saylor said.
She said there is a need for people like Williams and other advocates to share stories and continue researching so more people can be knowledgeable about students with learning disabilities and their specific needs.
“It helps our culture here on campus,” Saylor said. “Because what we hope to do is change the culture whereas people don’t look at disability as something that is stigmatic or stigmatizing.”
Ola Sheffield, faculty administrator and director of research communications, said advocates such as Williams give students the push they need to achieve their goals.
“I believe that when these young people see someone who looks like them they can relate, especially because of the fact that they have gone through something similar or worse in some instances,” Sheffield said.
She said there is a need for more African-Americans to serve as advocates for students with learning disabilities.
“The whole mindset and proverb rings true,” Sheffield said. “It takes a village to raise a child.”