Lindsay Lee, junior in Spanish and mathematics, was walking along a sidewalk. The man in front of her turned around and said, "That must be fun."

He was referencing her electric wheelchair.

Lee has muscular dystrophy, a genetic condition that weakens her muscles and constrains her mode of transportation.

Oftentimes, strangers exhibit confusion and ignorance when interacting with her.

"At the end of last semester I was trying to figure out something that would be good for UT," she said. "I've noticed that people sometimes have a bad attitude around campus towards disability."

That observation led to the establishment of Campus Disability Advocates, a new UT student group that is attempting to start more conversations about disabilities and the people that have them.

"The thing that makes disability advocacy difficult is that nobody is really going on TV and saying 'God hates disabled people.' It's not something that people have a strong antagonistic feeling towards, but that also means nobody's talking about it," Lee explained. "It can be hard when it's not on anyone's mind."

In order to put disability on people's minds, Lee and the other members of CDA are hosting "Disability Awareness Week."
Starting today, black and white portraits of disabled people will be available all week for viewing in the UC.

"The point of those is just to make people start thinking about how disability is real and not foreign, just to put a face to something that normally doesn't get a personality," Lee said.

The portraits were done by Marigrace Angelo, senior in studio art. She was eager to help the cause.

"Lindsay and I are already friends, and she knows that I am an art major. So she approached me and asked if I would be assistive ... of course I said yes. I knew she was really passionate about this," Angelo said.

Using natural lighting, Angelo aimed at showcasing the relatability of her subjects.

"Lindsay told me she wanted the portraits to look happy and uplifting and I definitely agreed with her on that," she said.

"We wanted to project the idea that individuals with disabilities are just normal students you see walking around on campus."

On Tuesday, the Howard H. Baker Center for Public Policy will host a public forum in the Toyota Auditorium.
Campus Disability Advocates will also sponsor a viewing of "My Left Foot" on Wednesday night at 7 p.m. in the Baker Center. The 1989 film featuring Daniel Day-Lewis tells the true story of Christy Brown, a man with cerebral palsy who learns to communicate using only his left foot.

The week concludes with the "Disability Issues and Advocacy Conference" on Thursday and Friday, featuring speakers from around the nation.

In 30-45 minute segments, the speakers will discuss a wide range of issues, from employment to ethics. One talk even ventures into the bathroom, entitled "Potty Politics: What Our Restroom Signs Tell Us About Our Attitudes Toward Inclusion."

"You just see the look on people's faces and they feel uncomfortable," Lee said. "The reason why is because they don't know any better, they don't know that (disability) is not a death sentence and that people aren't helpless. So the whole point is to get people to start talking about it, to make people think when they're interacting with people in the line at Starbucks."