By Paula Meyer
TERRE HAUTE — March is Disability Awareness Month in Indiana, and Indiana State University is sponsoring and hosting a variety of activities to support and raise awareness.
Activities are sponsored by Indiana State’s Blumberg Center for Interdisciplinary Studies in Special Education in conjunction with Cunningham Memorial Library.
The monthlong series of activities kicked off Monday with the showing of the film “Children of a Lesser God,” sponsored by the President’s Commission on Enhancement of Diversity Resources and the library.
The film was shown in advance of Marlee Matlin’s appearance at Indiana State next Monday, March 3, as part of the University Speakers Series.
In the 1986 film, Matlin plays Sarah Norman, a deaf and troubled young woman working at a school for the deaf and hard of hearing in New England. An energetic new teacher, James Leeds (played by William Hurt), encourages her to set aside her isolated life of frustration by learning how to talk. As she already uses sign language, Sarah resists James’ attempts to get her to talk.
Romantic interest develops between James and Sarah and they are soon living together, but their differences and stubbornness eventually strain their relationship to a breaking point.
Matlin received worldwide critical acclaim for her motion picture debut in Paramount Pictures’ “Children of a Lesser God,” earning her the Academy Award for Best Actress.
At age 21, she became the youngest recipient of the Best Actress Oscar, making her one of only four actresses to receive that honor for a film debut. In addition to the Oscar, Matlin was honored by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association with the Golden Globe Award for Best Actress in a Drama.
The film will be shown at 6:30 p.m. in Cunningham Memorial Library, with a discussion following the film led by Tracy Haupt, a teacher of the hearing-impaired with the Covered Bridge Special Education District.
The film is free and open to the public.
In addition, here are special Disability Awareness Month events:
March 3: Oscar-winning actress and author Marlee Matlin will speak at 7 p.m. in Indiana State University’s Tilson Auditorium as part of the 2007-2008 University Speakers Series. A book signing and reception is planned immediately following her presentation “The Roaring Silence: From Oscar to the West Wing” in Heritage Lounge.
In addition to acting, she has authored three books, “Deaf Child Crossing,” “Nobody’s Perfect” and “Leading Ladies.” Matlin currently serves as a national celebrity spokeswoman for the American Red Cross, encouraging Americans to donate blood. She has worked on behalf of closed-captioning and was instrumental in getting Congress to pass federal legislation requiring all televisions manufactured in the United States be equipped with closed-captioning technology.
March 18: Walgreens corporate executive Deb Russell will speak on “Employing People with Disabilities” at 5 p.m. in Cunningham Memorial Library. A reception for Russell will be hosted by the library beginning at 4:30 p.m.
Russell was selected by Walgreen Company to manage its Career Outreach Department in 2006. This department oversees the company’s commitment to have one-third of the work force in its latest and all future distribution centers consist of qualified individuals with disabilities.
The first of these centers opened in January 2007. She has advised and monitored the efforts in order to disseminate lessons that are learned. Walgreen Company is the nation’s largest drugstore chain and the seventh-largest retailer.
Russell’s background includes working for more than 15 years in the field of employment of people with disabilities. These experiences include being a special education teacher, job coach, job developer, director of a job development program, manager of systems change projects at the state level and addressing issues related to people with disabilities within the work force investment system. She has presented nationally on topics related to the employment of people with disabilities and has worked for the U.S. Department of Labor.
Her visit is sponsored by the Blumberg Center, Cunningham Memorial Library and the College of Business.
March 19: David Geeslin, superintendent of the Indiana School for the Deaf, will present a program for the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, beginning at 1:30 p.m. at Westminster Village, 1120 E. Davis Drive, Terre Haute.
He will give a short glimpse of the life of deaf community members. He will also answer your questions about living in today’s world as a deaf person and American Sign Language.
Not only was Geeslin the first completely deaf student to earn a bachelor’s degree in linguistics from Purdue University, he also was the first deaf person to receive a doctoral degree from a university in Indiana (Indiana University, 2007). He is now superintendent and CEO of the Indiana School for the Deaf, where he attended classes as a child.
Geeslin chairs numerous educational committees and has presented countless workshops, covering topics such as the bilingual approach in deaf education, ASL linguistics, and deaf children’s language and culture. He serves as a board member on the State Advisory Council on the Education of Children with Disabilities and was a 2007 member of the Indianapolis Public Schools Cultural Audit Task Force.
The event is free and open to the public. Geeslin’s appearance is sponsored by the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute and Blumberg Center.
March 28-30: The Indiana Special Olympics 2007 Men’s State Basketball Tournament takes place in the Health and Human Services (Arena) Building, north and south gymnasiums. This event is free and open to the public. The Special Olympics Indiana Men’s State Basketball Finals take place at Indiana State University each year in March. Special Olympics Indiana’s roots go deep with Terre Haute and ISU, which have been the host of this tournament since 1971 and the host of the Special Olympics Indiana Summer Games since the early 1970s.
Indiana State has been the only site for the Men’s Basketball Finals. Special Olympics Indiana works very closely with John Lentz, ISU’s director of recreational sports, to produce both the Men’s Basketball Finals and Summer Games. Lentz serves a member of the Special Olympics Indiana Sports Management Team for Basketball and helps organize the facilities for the annual Summer Games.