District to observe Disability History Week

Fariha Beig, Author

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Palo Alto High School Librarian Rachel Kellerman hosts a book display in the library for Disability History Week. The book display is situated in the Special Collection shelf in the center of the library next to the computers.

– Fariha Beig

Palo Alto High School students will observe Disability History Week this week thanks to a Board of Education resolution passed last month.

Disability History Week is four days devoted to “infuse instruction and activities related to disability history into the existing school curriculum” according to The Museum of DisABILITY History. In correspondence to California state law ACR 162, Disability History Week is an opportunity for students to learn about the disabled community; it is also an opportunity to celebrate and honor the disabled community in its role in American society.

Librarian Rachel Kellerman has created a LibGuide where students can find out more information about the history of the disabled; she also has a book display in the library on the history of the disabled community.

“I think it’s really important to realize the importance of making our world easier for people who have limitations such as providing curb cuts for wheel chairs,” Kellerman said. “We should also celebrate different learning styles rather than labeling them inadequate for the way our school system is made.”

Other than Kellerman’s activities, there are no other activities taking place yet to raise awareness at Paly for Disability History Week. Some teachers will host discussions about the Disability History Week.

“I am now planning on discussing this with my students throughout the week and using the LibGuides page as a resource,” Erika Magagna Special Education Teacher said. “It is very important, for my students especially, to know about the disability rights movement and advocate for themselves. Now that I know about DHW, next year I plan to spend quite a bit more time on it.”

Principal Phil Winston shares a similar view.

“[We] could probably do more work in this area,” Winston said. “Initially it will be small, but over time we will develop traditions, celebrations and education, which will result in a greater awareness and sensitivity around this topic.”

The Palo Alto Unified School District Board of Education unanimously passed a resolution on Sept. 27 which states that “PAUSD schools and educators recognize that by teaching disability history in schools, we are taking the necessary steps to ensure that history is not repeated and that there continues to be movement towards an even more accessible society for future generations.” PAUSD is joining with Youth Organizing! Disabled and Proud to encourage Palo Alto schools to take part in activities.

Gunn graduate Sara Moussavian (’09), who has been involved in YO! Disabled and Proud since her freshman year in college, is a proud supporter of Disability History Week. Moussavian is working on the Own My Power-Freedom from Bullying Campaign that focuses on stopping bullying of individuals (especially youth) with disabilities.

“The reason why I am passionate about this cause is because I thrive on making a difference for the next generation of youth with disabilities,” Moussavian said. “As an individual with a physical disability, the chance of my child having a disability is 50/50 which means that given Disability History Week Resolution and the Fair Education Act Law my child(ren) will not have to face being bullied by students who don’t even know what the background of the Disability Movement is.”

With the implementation of Disability History Week, students will have the opportunity to learn about the history of the disabled community. Students should learn about how disabled people were treated and viewed, how conditions have and have not changed over time and how people with disabilities are constantly involved in self-advocacy and in their communities. By giving students context of disability history, students “will be more likely to view individuals with disabilities as people deserving of dignity and respect just like everyone else,” according to The Museum of DisABILITY History.

24 states including California have recognized a week to acknowledge the achievements and contributions of the disabled individuals to our society according to PAUSD School Board resolution.

Disability History Week is to be observed annually during the second week of October, according to California state law ACR 162 and PAUSD resolution; October is also National Disability Employment Awareness Month.

Although there are not many activities at school this year, there is a community event called Disability History Flick Night for the Paly community. It takes place at 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 26, from at the Silicon Valley Independent Living Center in San Jose. For more information, go to Silicon Valley Independent Living Center website.

“If you believe people have no history worth mentioning, it’s easy to believe they have no humanity worth defending,” William Loren Katz said. Katz is an author, educator and historian.

To learn more about Disability History Week nationally, click here.

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