A lecture held in the memorial union, titled “End the Awkward,” showed audience members three different photos of Ian Howell throughout his life. The first photo shown is Ian as a first grader, with his walker, smiling next to a friend. According to Howell, he has been “stylin on wheels” since childhood.
Howell is a senior marketing major at Emporia State and plans to graduate in May. As Howell explained in his presentation, he is one of the 26% of adults in the United States with a disability, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
He was born with a movement disorder known as cerebral palsy and has used his experience gained from his disability to reach out to others and educate them on subjects regarding implicit biases that exist within society.
‘End the Awkward’ is Howell’s community engagement project that he has been working on as a member of the Honors College program. A study conducted in 2007 revealed that 76% of 2.5 million people had a bias for those who are able bodied, according to Howell’s research.
During his presentation, Howell discussed how people can work to reverse this in ourselves. He believes there is a social aspect of dialogue that is lacking between people who are able-bodied, and people with disabilities. To give an example of this, he gave the audience a visual of his own experience.
“I’m walking to class, and I trip and fall on the way there and somebody is trying to help me, but they don’t know what to do,” Howell said. “They have this really strange look on their face like ‘Do I walk away? Do I reach down to help you?’ And I just smile and say, ‘Hey, can you give me a hand?”
After giving this example, Howell referred back to the presentation and reminded those in the audience to not be nervous and to treat those with disabilities as what they are: people.
During the Q&A portion of the event, Howell explained the significance that choosing ESU has had on his life.
“Once I got on campus and realized how easy it was to get around, that was a true blessing,” Howell said. “I wouldn’t have chosen anywhere else.”
Howell can now be seen without his crutches, walking on campus between classes. While his journey from a walker, to braces, to out of braces has been difficult, he is thankful for all the support he has been given during many years of physical therapy.
“A lot of that is due to my parents,” Howell said. “I’m thankful that we could afford that because a lot of kids unfortunately don’t get that.”
Howell’s parents were both in attendance, sitting in the front row, and taking photos. This is the first time his mother has heard him speak since high school.
Many of Howell’s friends and fellow honors college members were also there to support him including associate provost and dean of the Honors College, Gary Wyatt. Howell has been an “enormous addition” to the group, according to Wyatt.
Those who were not able to attend the event can still have a chance to learn by visiting the link to Howell’s project at tinyurl.com/jx9y2muu