Technically there is no disability awareness month — more like a disability awareness year. Many associate the month of October when the Department of Labor’s focus is to make employers aware of the needs of the disabled in the workforce. Many organizations take advantage of this month to raise awareness of a myriad of disabilities and to celebrate the gifts that individuals with a disability bring to society.
DPS chose October as Disability Awareness month as a way to continue to celebrate our diversity. The disability community is very pluralistic with some strong opinions on many topics such as “people first” or “disability first language.” Another example is the term disability. While some in the community embrace this term as critical to their identity, others prefer terms such as differently-abled. Much like current dialogue on the terms Hispanic and Latinx, these issues are also pervasive in the disability community as well. Engaging in these conversations will only help us to grow in our understanding.
Disability is not biased towards gender, race, political affiliation, creed, etc. The largest minority worldwide is disability, with some of the most atrocious discrimination and poorest employment outcomes. Everybody at some time in their life will have a disability that typically comes with age. The good news is that we can innovate the world when we better understand disability.
The curb cut on sidewalks intended for wheelchairs are widely used by bikers, strollers and making deliveries on a cart. Closed captioning intended for the Deaf is widely used in noisy environments, by second language learners learning English and couples who like to go to sleep at different times. The typewriter that eventually became computers was invented as a way for the Blind royalty in Europe to write. Speech-to-text software commonly used by individuals with dyslexia is enjoyed by drivers who need hands-free texting.
I am proud to work for DPS and its never-ending journey towards equity. I am amazed each day as people grow in their understanding of inclusive practices, and the board commitment though the Inclusion Resolution and our partnership with the Equity and Engagement office to make the necessary changes to benefit all students.
Former DPS Director of Special Education