This year, I had a chance to help out with Youth Advocacy Training for Nickerson and Fairfield High Schools. This is a two day event where we work with students with disabilities to inform them about advocacy and resources. As a person with a disability, I was excited for this event, it did not disappoint.
The first day started with a short history lesson about people with disabilities. It was shocking to realize people with disabilities have had it rough from the dark ages all the way up to present times. In fact it wasn’t until the 1970s that people with disabilities began to get treated with some respect. In 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act became law. It was in my lifetime that things finally changed. This never would have happened if people with disabilities had not stood up and fought for it. The day continued with trainings on everything from teamwork to finding employment.
On day two, we gave the students a chance to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes… Well, maybe just a hundred feet or so. Students were given goggles that simulated different types of visual impairments and guided around campus. They also had simulations of physical impairments, learning disabilities, and others. The day was filled with activities that gave the youth a chance to learn about the world they live in and how to advocate for themselves and their disabilities.
Even though the ADA, Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, is here there is no shortage of people that would try to get rid of it. That is what makes advocacy so important. Without those willing to stand we will only go backwards. We have come a long way; we still have a long way to go. People with disabilities are the only people, who can legally earn less then minimum wage. In some states parents lose their kids simply because they have a disability. There is a bill currently in congress that will take away parts of the ADA and make building accessibility a thing of the past. We need people that are willing to speak up and fight back. We can make the world a place where people with disabilities are seen for whom they are and not the disability they have.