Hearing-ear dogs, wheelchair athletes and a lesson or two Program teaches students disability awareness

November 06, 1995|By Shanon D. Murray | Shanon D. Murray,SUN STAFF

Wayne Albrecht lost two-thirds of his hearing through chronic exposure to jet aircraft, but his dog Chelsea helps him "hear" a ringing telephone and a crying baby. And students at Mayfield Woods Middle School in Elkridge, who encountered the pair Friday, were amazed.

Mr. Albrecht was one of seven volunteers and eight dogs from Laurel-based Fidos for Freedom -- a nonprofit organization that trains dogs to work with disabled and elderly people -- who demonstrated their skills to the school's 750 students.

Regular classes were canceled as the sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade students took turns watching the demonstration in the gym as part of the school's Disability Awareness Project day.

Last week's DAP day was the second at Mayfield Woods since the school opened in 1990, said the school's health educator, Debbie Lange.

In addition to the Fidos demonstration, students saw an exhibition by a wheelchair basketball team. Speakers with such disabilities as cerebral palsy lectured in the classrooms.

"We want the youngsters to meet people who happen to have disabilities and learn how they handle them and have wonderful, interesting lives," said Anne Wade, DAP coordinator for the Howard County school system, which has sponsored disability awareness days since 1985.

Fidos for Freedom has been a popular part of the program. Last year alone, volunteers from the group visited 12,000 Howard County students at more than 20 schools, said Cathleen Cahill, the group's training director.

The group also visits schools in Prince George's, Baltimore and Montgomery counties, but Howard is the only county with an organized disability awareness day, Ms. Cahill said.

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