Various campus organizations are collaborating to promote respect and value toward the mentally and developmentally disabled as part of national Learning Disability Awareness Month in March.

The university chapters of Best Buddies International and Project Eye-to-Eye, national organizations pairing students with disabled community members, launched a three-day campaign yesterday to alter how people view their disabled peers and inhibit the use of common terms such as “retarded” that carry negative connotations. The groups will partner with other local organizations such as Pathpoint Inc. and Special Olympics throughout the month to further its efforts.

PETE Co-coordinator Jeffrey Stephens, a third-year film and media studies major, said the commemoration allows disabled students to express pride in for their status.

“This month, we will be advocating that we have learning disabilities and that we are proud of it by wearing ‘LD and Proud’ t-shirts,” Stephens said. “A lot of the time people don’t realize that we, in fact, have a disability. We will not use our disability as a crutch but rather embrace it to find and encourage what we are passionate about.”

According to PETE Co-coordinator Angelique Kekulawela, a fourth-year theater studies major, the programs also help de-stigmatize learning disabilities through creative community activities.

“After someone sees all of what we do in and out of our art rooms, I hope we can change the way people perceive [learning disorders] and ADHD and get rid of the LD/ADHD misconceptions,” Kekulawela said. “This month should be a time to think differently about individuals with these struggles by supporting our message.”

Best Buddies Director Blake Ballardo, a fourth-year sociology major, said the group encourages individuals to respect the rights of those in the disabled community.

“The main idea of Learning Disability Awareness Month is to not have to have a Learning Disability Awareness Month,” Ballardo said. “We want to get people to understand that the r-word upsets people with LDD and to have others [be] more aware that they are just people, too.”