The Second Annual California Disability History Week is being celebrated around the state this week (October 10th- October 14th), the result of a long-fought effort by young people with disabilities determined to create a better understanding of the contributions people with disabilities have made to our society. In honor of this important week, students, teachers and schools around the state are preparing dozens of activities to take place both during and after school.
“California’s youth with disabilities led the effort to create Disability History Week because we know that by learning about the past, we can help change the future.” said YO! Volunteer Penelope DeMeerleer.
“Giving teachers the chance to create lesson plans and encourage conversations in class about the history of the disability history will go a long way in helping to reduce ignorance on campus and increase awareness and tolerance” Jonny Vallin, a student at CSU Los Angeles, explained.
Part of a national youth-led movement to increase awareness of disability history, California’s Disability History week encourages schools and colleges to highlight the disability rights social movement, the disability leaders and actions that led to Rehabilitation Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Supreme Court’s landmark ruling in the Olmstead case. Schools are planning events including: rallies, classroom activities, panels, assemblies, outreach, and guest speakers.
Efforts to pass the resolution to create Disability History Week, authored by Assemblymember Jim Beall (D-San Jose), were supported by the California Foundation for Independent Living Centers and YO! Youth Organizing! Disabled & Proud and comes after youth movements in several other states were successful in gaining recognition of Disability History Weeks. Nationwide, efforts to recognize disability history are supported by the federal Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy.
“Our history is so rich and diverse in California, yet many of my peers have never learned about the history of the disability community. I think this lack of knowledge is a major reason why so many young people with disabilities experience bullying at school,” said Ania Flatau, a student at Monterey Pennisula College. “This is why it is so important for Disability History Week to get started. I know that if my classmates had more information about the disability community, there would definitely be a greater understanding between students with and without disabilities.”
The Second Annual Disability History Week will be particularly timely, as an effort to overturn the recently adopted Fair, Accurate, Inclusive and Respectful (FAIR) Education Act at the ballot will be required to submit over 500,000 valid signatures on October 12th in order to qualify. The FAIR Act will lead to schools including information about the disability rights and LGBT rights movements in social studies and history classes in K-12 education. A month after Governor Brown signed the FAIR Act into law, several anti-gay groups launched an effort to prevent the historic Act from going into effect. Youth with disabilities from around the state are determined to make sure that these efforts to exclude certain parts of our history do not succeed.