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Cleveland-based dance company to celebrate the Americans with Disabilities Act's 25th anniversary

The ADA25 Series kicks off its October events with Dancing Wheels and panel discussions. 

The Dancing Wheels Company, a dance group based out of Cleveland that includes diverse dancers who are both with or without disabilities, will perform Tuesday in Baker Center Theatre to kick off the Ohio University’s ADA25 Celebration Series.
The series consists of 26 events spread out over the month of October, which is also National Disability Employment Awareness Month.

“They find themselves as an integrated dance company that combines people with and without disability,” Winsome Chunnu-Brayda, associate director of the Multicultural Center, said. “Part of that is to showcase the versatility of dance as an artform as well as an opportunity.”

The company was started by Mary Verdi-Fletcher, the first professional dancer in a wheelchair. The 13-member group will dance as a group and solo to songs such as “Over the Rainbow” and other compositions. The program Tuesday will consist of 13 dance numbers.

The Black Student Cultural Programming Board is collaborating with the university for the performance as a cultural way to educate those about National Disability Employment Awareness Month and the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, Chunnu-Brayda said.

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The ADA was signed into law in 1990 to help mandate accessibility and to prohibit discrimination for those with disabilities.

The dance group is on tour with a show that is coordinated specifically for the ADA anniversary, Chunnu-Brayda said. 

Similar to many institutions, Chunnu-Brayda said OU is required to provide services for students, staff and faculty within that demographic.

“When these big policy agendas come out from the federal government, which is meant to address issues of marginalization of these groups, that it is a pivotal time in this country’s history, and these peoples live that identify within these groups,” Chunnu-Brayda said.

Carey Busch, assistant dean of Student Accessibility Services, said the population of people with disabilities is the largest growing population in society.

“Unlike other underrepresented groups, at any point in time, any of us can become a person with a disability,” Busch said. “At some point, we’re going to have to figure out how to revert effectively for people with all disabilities. As you enter the workforce, people are going to continue to see more and more people with disabilities.”

Similar to other awareness months, Chunnu-Brayda said the ADA25 Celebration Series is meant to help bring awareness to those who do not know much about the ADA and to highlight the challenges that still need improvement.

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About 1,200 students with disabilities are on campus, Busch said, and there is still a lot of work to be done in making OU’s 300 buildings more handicap accessible.

“We have so many old buildings,” Busch said. “Over the last couple of years, what we’ve talked a lot about is trying to discuss issues about disability and accessibility in the beginning of a project instead of waiting until things are far along and going in and realizing there’s a problem.”

Chunnu-Brayda said the Black Student Cultural Programming Board's idea to celebrate and educate students on the ADA “worked out perfectly” with the university’s agenda this year, and the Dancing Wheels performance is the highlight of the series.

“They’re also going to be looking at how the act has changed over time,” Chunnu-Brayda said. “They’re going to have dance pieces looking at different aspects of the act. It’s kind of looking at policy through the arts.”


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