By, DANNA TABACHNIK
Last week, fall break was right around the corner, and most students were getting ready to head home and relax. However, members of the Disability Action Awareness Community (DAAC), Student Activities Board (SAB) and the Harkin Institute were hard at work getting ready for an event. Last Wednesday, Oct. 17 Handicap This, a collaboration between these groups, took place in the Sheslow Auditorium.
Sophia Weber, one of the campus impact co-chairs of SAB, was excited about the event. “There’s an air of mystery surrounding their thing,” Weber said. “It’s supposed to be a comedy act, but then it punches you in the gut at the end.”
The act involves two people, Tim Wambach and Mike Berkson. Berkson suffers from cerebral palsy, a disorder that hinders physical movement due to abnormal brain development. Wambach is Berkson’s one-on-one aide. They tour the country and give motivational speeches in an attempt to tear down stereotypes society often have about people with disabilities, said Courtney Nelson, president of DAAC.
“The goal of the whole show is to get people to realize that first of all, they have stereotypes about people with disabilities; you may not think you do, but you do,” Nelson said. “That’s just a fact of life, even I do and I’m someone with a disability.”
According to the DAAC president, Handicap This! was supposed to come to campus last February, but the organization who was funding the event pulled out last minute. The planning for this semester’s event started last semester, when Nelson learned that Tim and Mike would be ending the show at the end of the year due to the toll their tour of the country has taken on Mike’s health.
“Drake is the last official destination for our country tour,” Wambach said. “We will have a farewell show in Skokie, Illinois on Nov. 9 to give people the opportunity to hear us speak one last time.”
Wambach felt a sense of greater purpose when he met Berkson and became his aid. That was the reason behind his idea for their show, as well as the run he did, from Orlando, Florida to Chicago, Illinois, twice – once in 2005 and once in 2016. Wambach ran to raise awareness about cerebral palsy and to raise money for a charity he co-founded, Keep On Keeping On. Its mission is to assist those living with cerebral palsy and other severe disabilities.
“It was one of those ideas that gets all the hair on your arms stand up, the blood pumping in your veins and sound so impossible that I knew I had to do,” Wambach said. “People tend to focus on the differences that they can see in Mike and miss the real person underneath, a handsome, funny, caring, love-eating-at-food-court guy.”
Nelson stated that everyone can benefit from coming to the event.“I’m hoping that people walk away from it with the thought that people with disabilities shouldn’t be thought of as just that,” Nelson said. “They should be thought of as humans, as people, as students, as future presidents.”
Nelson states that people should see people with disabilities in a more positive light, see them for who they are underneath and what they can actually do rather than speculating their abilities through their appearance.
PHOTO HANDICAP THIS| PHOTO BY PHONG LY| FEATURES EDITOR