March to Disability Awareness Month

Junior Mason Unton reflects upon his time on the hill and experience working as a manager for the football team as a disabled student.


Mason holds the State Championship plaque standing with Coach Brooks and his parents.

March is known as that wonderful time of year when the snow melts, the sun stays out longer, and the flowers begin blooming; however, it is also known as national disability awareness month. 

According to Connecticut’s Official State Website, in late February of 1987, President Ronald Regan signed Proclamation 5613 which “called for people to provide understanding, encouragement, and opportunities to help persons with disabilities to lead productive and fulfilling lives.” It wasn’t until 1990 that the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was signed into law by President George H.W. Bush, which prohibited discrimination against people with disabilities in several areas such as employment, transportation, and schools. 

Get to know people for who they are and try to treat (disabled people) as normally as you can.

— Mason Unton

While some areas of Cathedral comply with the ADA laws, other areas leave a lot to be desired. For example, Loretto Hall has no ramps or elevators inside the building while Kelly Hall only has two elevators in addition to one set of ramps which have proven to be more of an obstacle than anything due to their steep nature. 

 Junior Mason Unton, who has cerebral palsy (CP), which is a condition caused by brain damage before birth, believes that Cathedral has been incredibly welcoming towards him and has done an excellent job of assisting him with his needs. 

“(Cathedral) honestly (has been) just a great experience. It wasn’t like what I had my freshman year where nobody really cared and I just had to figure out a way to do everything without assistance versus here it was more like, ‘Hey, what do you need?’” Unton said.  

Mason smiles on the sidelines with senior Brennan Wooten.

Unton, who transferred from Westfield High School his sophomore year, chose Cathedral after facing discrimination at his other school and because of the football program. “Part of the reason that I looked at (Cathedral) originally was because of the football program. It’s my passion. I’ve kind of found a home in the outer management world since I can’t play and that wasn’t something that I was ready to give up when I decided that I wanted to leave my former school.” Unton was finally sold on Cathedral when he was talking to Coach (Bill) Peebles, who told him he was needed on the team. 

From there, the transition to Cathedral was swift with Unton only having two weeks to get to know the football team before the school year began. Despite not being able to play, Unton has become a very valuable member of the team by recording the practices and assisting with other aspects. He said, “I’m more focused on the preparation aspect (of the sport). I record practices because if we make a mistake that can then be prevented by seeing it and knowing how to counter it, then that mistake doesn’t happen again on the field.” In addition to that, Unton said his other jobs include taking care of the players and coaches as well as hanging up the jerseys before the games. “My job as a manager is to help make sure that the team can reach their full potential,” Unton said. 

Unfortunately, there are still some restrictions that he has to face as a manager due to his disability; however, the coaches have made sure he remains an integral part of the team. “They haven’t necessarily told me that I can’t do something. I was never told ‘you can’t do this because of X, Y, or Z.’ The only time I was told I couldn’t do something is when they had a more ‘able-bodied’ student help with lifting equipment.” He continued, “(When I joined), I was just given jobs to do and tried to do them to the best of my ability.”

In terms of getting around school, one of the adjustments that Unton has had to make due to the lack of accessibility at Cathedral was with his walker. “(My walker) ended up breaking between the summer of my sophomore and junior year. I got another one but it just honestly feels like more of a hassle than a help. Not having it has made me feel freer because now I can go to the upper floor of Loretto and they don’t need to move a class to make that possible,” he said.

Mason and Class of 2022 graduate, Justin Sage, together after last year’s State Championship win.

Unton feels as though the Cathedral community has accepted him with open arms, but he admits that it still isn’t perfect and there is always room for improvement. He hopes that a long-term goal for Cathedral is to update the buildings so they are more accessible for future students.

For now, he said that he wishes Cathedral would do a better job at restricting access to the elevators for students who don’t have a pass because some students don’t abide by that rule. In addition to that, Unton said “I know that we bring other dogs in and stuff like that but I honestly wish that we didn’t because some dogs just don’t play nice with other dogs, and if someone were to need a service dog, that would be a problem.”

Unton believes that the best thing anyone can do to help those with disabilities around them is to stay educated and treat them with respect. Unton said, “Get to know people for who they are and try to treat (disabled people) as normally as you can. If you have questions, ask them. If they have resources to learn about it, then they can give you those or if you want to do outside research, please go ahead and do that. I would much rather you be more informed than just judgemental and ignorant.”