Saint Louis University

About The Ability Exhibit

Ability Exhibit Logo


"Disability education is for everyone by everyone.

It is a shared responsibility, and it is up to each of us to model inclusive behavior."


It has been twenty years since the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990 and almost forty years since the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. Both of these laws protect against discrimination of people with disabilities by requiring equal access to employment, education, goods and services.

Americans have progressed in their attitudes and behaviors toward people with disabilities; however, there remain questions and concerns about appropriate communication, comfort level, and inclusive practices.

When it comes to interacting with individuals with disabilities, people ask, "What should I do?" How should I respond?" "Is it okay to say that?" "How can I become an ally?" Allies for Inclusion: The Ability Exhibit will attempt to answer some of these questions.


The Ability Exhibit Experience

Allies for Inclusion: The Ability Exhibit© is a traveling exhibit designed to promote the inclusion of people with disabilities through respect for others, comfort during interactions, and awareness of disability issues. Using a multi-media approach to demonstrate respect, comfort and awareness, the exhibit offers suggestions for becoming disability allies and educators:   

Person-First Language promotes the person first, then the disability. Using person-first language allows us to show respect and avoid labels.

Quiz Yourself: "Ability IQ" Through computer quizzes, test your knowledge about disability facts, celebrities with disabilities, disability law, and appropriate communication techniques. You will be surprised how much you already know and what you might learn.

Who Do You Know with Disabilities? Indicate if you know someone with a disability, and notice how many people - including you - already are disability allies! Categories include Visual (blind, low vision), Hearing (deaf, hard of hearing), Mobility, Psychological, Medical, and Learning disabilities.

"Space Rope" Hold one end of the Space Rope and experience the communication distances used by people who are blind and have low vision. Knots on the Space Rope indicate the distance between two people. Used in pairs, the Space Rope helps simulate the appropriate distance between two individuals for public or personal space.

Learning Disabilities are "silent" or "hidden" disabilities that affect millions of people, but often are overlooked. See facts and statistics about learning disabilities in the United States.

Universal Design (UD) is "the design of products and environments to be usable by all people, to the greatest extent possible, without the need for adaptation or specialized design" (Center for Universal Design, 1997).

 Universal Instructional Design (UID) relates to curriculum and academic settings and provides welcoming educational environments and equal access for everyone. 

 Universal Design in Student Development (UDSD) is universal design in student services and student development. An informational video and several publications provide the "how to" specifics for utilizing UD, UID, and UDSD.

The Disability Movement in the United States is illustrated through a sample of historical photographs. A pivotal moment in the movement was the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990, the most comprehensive legislation concerning the civil rights of persons with disabilities. Learn more about disability legislation in the "ADA 20th Anniversary" video.


Allies for Inclusion: The Ability Exhibit was created by Saint Louis University (SLU) graduate students in the Disability in Higher Education and Society course under the direction of their instructor, Karen Myers, PhD. "I was so inspired by [graduate student] Anne Marie Carroll's initiative that I formed a team of students to take her idea to the next level," said Myers.

Evolving from a class project into a sophisticated exhibit, Allies for Inclusion: The Ability Exhibit debuted at SLU on October 27, 2010.  "More than 150 students, faculty, staff, and community members attended the unveiling, timed to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA)" (Karen Myers in Business Officer, March, 2011).

Since its debut, The Ability Exhibit has been displayed at other colleges and universities, and it received national recognition at the 2011 ACPA College Student Educators International annual convention.  "We are thrilled with all the outstanding feedback and attention we've received," said Myers.  "Plans for future showings on other campuses are currently under way, and we are very excited for the future of The Ability Exhibit."  


Allies for Inclusion: The Ability Exhibit© is sponsored by the Saint Louis University Department of Education and the Division of Student Development with generous donations from the SLU Division of Information Technology Services and Logan College of Chiropractic. 

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