'If you're blind or you're deaf, or you use a wheelchair and we can all help each other'

    Eugene YMCA hosts Mobility International to show inclusiveness to those with disabilities

    EUGENE, Ore. - Almost 30 exchange students visited Eugene with Mobility International to take part in activities showcasing Eugene's inclusiveness and accessibility.

    The students took to the Eugene YMCA to exercise and work together while learning how a place like the YMCA is for everybody.

    "We came here and we used the machines for exercise," said Lariba Aputuligo, a student from Ghana. "I got to use the bike and it was very fun."

    Twenty eight different exchange students with disabilities from around the world traveled to Eugene to learn from Mobility International, USA. The main goal was to teach that there are many ways to live life to the fullest.

    Having a disability doesn't have to stop you from doing what you want to do.

    "We want to bring them here to see get a vision of what you could take home and make the changes in your community so people with disabilities have rights and get to contribute in their communities like everybody else," said Cindy Lewis, the director of Programs with Mobility International.

    Exercising and doing activities at the Eugene YMCA gives students who are only in the U.S. for one year a chance to be shown how to feel empowered, no matter their disability.

    "I saw some equipment that also wheel chair users can do and I think it is wonderful, it's so inclusive," said Elisabeth Egel, an exchange student from Estonia.

    Students do activities like these to feel empowered and in control of their disability, and it shows them that their disability does not omit them from being healthy and fit.

    "People from other countries who come here say, 'Oh my gosh, I can go on any bus, no ones staring at me... I can go into schools.... I can go into stores,'" said Lewis. "That may be true around the U.S., but Eugene has always been really ahead of the curve in terms of proactive inclusion and proactive accessibility."

    Students see that places like the YMCA aren't a special place, but a place where everyone can go.

    "No matter what, if you're blind or you're deaf or you use a wheelchair and we can all help each other. Even though the blind people couldn't see I helped them and showed them how we can all exercise," said Aputuligo.

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