Inquiring Minds - Disability Studies

Flagstaff, AZ – Matthew Wangeman is giving a voice to people with disabilities.

NAU instructor Matthew Wangeman says people with disabilities are often unseen and unheard.

"In our class we try to uncover the reasons why people with disabilities are treated so different by this society, and we challenge the mainstream view of people with disabilities."

Through a state-of-the-art communications devise called Eco-point, Wangeman co-teaches Introduction to Disability Studies.

He has cerebral palsy. This neurological condition gives him little control over most of his body. It takes him hours to program audible messages, which he does through eye movement.

A quicker and more interactive communication method is through an interpreter. With a pointer attached to his helmet, Wangeman moves his head to tap out words on a board.

"People with disabilities are not d-i-f-f. . .are not different," finishes his translator, Kathy Mahosky. Mahosky and Wangeman teach in the Institute for Human Development. They hope to change attitudes, create awareness and help people feel more comfortable around others regardless of physical or cognitive abilities.

Wangeman says it is the attitude of others that limits what people with disabilities can do. And, with a master's degree in city planning, he has no plans for being limited.

"I find teaching at NAU very rewarding," he says. "For a person with a significant disability, I am very fortunate to have an opportunity to teach undergraduates at this university and I really do love teaching students."