For Immediate Release
September 22, 2011
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BROCKPORT, NY— Approximately 1,300 attendees heard US Olympian Marla Runyan deliver the keynote address to open The College at Brockport’s 2011 Diversity Conference. Runyan, the first legally blind member of the United States Olympic track and field team, titled her speech, “Seeing Possibility.” The crowd was comprised of College students, faculty, and staff as well as local high school students and members of the community.
Runyan spent much of her speech discussing how limited vision actually pushed her to prove what she could accomplish. “What is most important is not your weakness, but how you perceive it,” she said. “I had to break through that glass ceiling of lowered expectation.”
Runyan, who was diagnosed with Stargardt’s Disease at the age of nine and retained only her peripheral vision, was the top U.S. performer in the women’s 1,500-meter run with her eighth place finish in the 2000 Summer Games. The three-time U.S. National Champion also competed in the 2004 Olympics.
Runyan also led the conference’s closing session, where she discussed the use of Apple’s iPad as a communication and learning tool for children with special needs.
Several times throughout her keynote speech Runyan emphasized how perceptions influence how we see and treat each other. “I wanted others to see me as just Marla; I didn’t want to be known as the blind runner.”
Runyan did note that while other athletes don’t always know how to interact with her outside of competition, “On the track there was no generosity,” she said. “(It was) all elbows and spikes because everyone wants to win.”
Brockport’s Diversity Conference seeks to promote open-mindedness and celebrate diversity. The theme for this year’s conference is “Building Community through Diversity: Embracing a Culture of Accessibility.” In addition to the keynote address, numerous educational sessions were offered. These included discussions on women in the locker room, career decisions and employment for minorities, and the college experience for students with physical disabilities.
The College at Brockport, State University of New York
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