August 03, 2016

Talk focuses on humor and people with disabilities

by Christi Mathis

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- “Disability Humor -- The Bridge Over the Discomfort Gap” is an upcoming public presentation at Southern Illinois University Carbondale designed to help people overcome the awkwardness that is sometimes present during interactions with people who have disabilities. 

Richard Harris, director emeritus of the Disability Services program that he helped found at Ball State University, will be the guest presenter from 2:30 to 3:30 pm. on Aug. 11 in SIU’s Student Center Auditorium. There is no cost to attend and everyone is welcome. 

Harris is also co-founder of the Association on Higher Education and Disability, a national professional higher education and disability organization, and twice served as its president. SIU and Ball State have both earned national recognition for providing access and opportunities to students with disabilities and Harris has made similar presentations on college campuses across the country and in several other nations. 

Interweaving a large dose of humor throughout his talk, Harris will discuss how people can interact with individuals who have some type of disability in a way that is authentic and not at all awkward. Often, people intend no offense with deeds or words but yet interactions seem difficult or stilted, according to Sam Goodin, director of Disability Support Services at SIU. Those attending are encouraged to ask questions as well. 

Goodin said the goal of bringing Harris to campus is to “help us come to a better understanding of how we might communicate and relate to persons with disabilities in a natural and comfortable manner.” 

Program sponsors are University Housing, the Student Center and Disability Support Services.