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‘Differently abled’ prof to discuss diversity

Wednesday event part of OUS lecture and performance series

The “differently abled” is the only minority group anyone can join, at any point in life, according to Dr. J.W. Smith, an Ohio University Professor of Speech Communications.

Smith, who has been blind since birth, prefers the term “differently abled” to disabled.

He explains: “Who says I am disabled because I don’t do it your way? I do it differently. Because I read braille that doesn’t mean that I am disabled. I am getting my information differently but as long as I get it.”

His passion is teaching individuals, he calls “Temporarily Able Bodied” how to communicate with differently abled individuals. For more than 15 years he has taught students at OU to communicate with disabled individuals.

On Wed. Oct. 12 at 6:30 p.m. Smith will present a lecture titled “Four Keys to Effective Communication between the Differently Abled and TABs (Temporarily Able Bodied”) at Ohio University Southern as part of its Diversity Lecture and Performance Series.

Smith said his lecture focuses on encouraging individuals of different abilities to communicate with one another.

“Don’t avoid it and don’t be afraid when you are in the presence of someone who is differently abled,” Smith said.

“I want them to appreciate differences,” he said, adding he’d also like individuals to think about what they can do to make themselves more approachable to individuals of all abilities.

His four keys spell CARE. They stand for “Contact, Asking and Assuming, Respect, and Empathize and Engage,” Smith said.

Differently abled “is the one minority anyone can join. Unfortunately I’ve seen people over my life join it,” he said, adding he has had students who have taken his course only to return later as a guest speaker following some type of an event that has made them differently abled.

Smith’s lecture is part of OUS’s observance of October as Disability Awareness Month and will be in the Mains Rotunda, according to Adam Fry, interim coordinator of disability services and career services at OUS.

The month is designed to recognize social and cultural contributions made by people with disabilities and to increase campus and community awareness of the changes still needed to create equal opportunities and an inclusive environment, Fry said in a written statement.