Happy Disability History Week 2014!

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by Kirk Aranda, YO! Disabled & Proud Youth Advocate

It’s that time of the year once again everyone!

It’s time to celebrate Disability History Week 2014!

Disability History Week (DHW) is a fun and exciting time where youth from the program Youth Organizing! (YO!) Disabled and Proud go into classrooms or auditoriums at their local schools to present on the history of the Disability Movement. The second week of October was designated as Disability History Week several years ago, after a group of YO! Disabled and Proud members connected at the Youth Leadership Forum (YLF).  It was passed by the Legislature in 2009.  The story of how DHW came to be is also an important part of our history, since it was a group of students with disabilities that wanted to make their dream of having disability history be included in mainstream curriculum a reality… and they did it!

Every year since Disability History Week became official, a number of YO! volunteers and members go  to their local schools to present and educate students as well as teachers on Disability History. Each year a variety of historical facts and stories are presented to teachers – facts and stories that are usually not yet in their lesson plans. Several examples of these lesson plans may include influential individuals like Ed Roberts, Justin Dart, and Judy Heumann.

Ed Roberts is often called the Father of the Independent Living Movement, and  he also paved the way for students with disabilities by fighting for his right to an education at the University of California Berkeley.  Another disability rights activist, Justin Dart, played an imperative role in finally getting the Americans with Disabilities Act passed.

Judy Heumann helped to lead the 504 sit-ins, another important part of our history. She and fellow demonstrators took over the Health Education and Welfare office in San Francisco for not complying with Section 504.  Section 504 essentially it said no program receiving federal funds could discriminate against a person with a disability.   Well, this sit in led to other sit-ins around the country and ultimately led to the longest occupation of a federal office by protestors in U.S. History!

Black and white photo of a bunch of people including many that use wheelchairs listening to a woman speak outside government building

504 Protest in 1977

These are just a few examples of some of the historical facts that are covered when learning about disability history. Presentations can be done using PowerPoint and typically educators follow the lesson with a game of Disability History Jeopardy, which makes learning an even more fun and interactive experience in the classroom. Click here to view more information and ideas for celebrating DHW. This year, YO! also be encouraging everyone to share their favorite disability history story – so keep the exciting stories coming!

Disability History Week has and continues to bring so much passion and excitement year in and year out to everyone that is involved in the week. We hope to keep expanding and growing with many more schools all throughout California participating to make Disability History Week bigger and better each year!

We look forward to YOU participating in Disability History Week 2014!  What is your favorite disability history story?  Share it with us!


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