Disabilities Awareness Program

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Disabilities Awareness Program As the first student editor of this Disabilities Awareness newsletter for high school students, I was initially wary of the task. I had virtually no contact with anyone who faced a disability. I believe the fact that I was not familiar with the subject made me more curious about whom I would meet and what stories I would encounter. As editor, I presided over a group of students who helped develop and write this first edition. We have all learned a great deal from one another about people with disabilities and our attitudes toward them. Responding to a request sent out to English teachers, we came together to try something new which I hope you will enjoy reading as much as we have enjoyed writing. My first job as student editor was to attend a ceremony last June at the Executive Mansion celebrating the inclusion of students with disabilities in New York State schools. I was completely awestruck at the determination of the students I met there. They had so willingly separated the myths of disabilities from the facts. These young students did not look at the disabilities that other students had, but saw through them and saw the person. At the ceremony some special people came together to celebrate not only the success of inclusion, but the acceptance of inclusion. The day brought smiling faces for many children and adults alike who had participated in some way by including a person with a disability in some aspect of their lives. At the ceremony in the Executive Mansion, First Lady Libby Pataki presented achievement awards to both students and teachers. The Mansion was filled with the sounds of laughter. It was after this ceremony that a group of students got together to write articles included in this publication. There were many stories submitted of inspiration and hope. Many of them parallel what was shown at the ceremony. Yet the thing which stands out the most is the concept that these are people. They are not the disability but they are the person. It is often forgotten that there is more to see than the disability. The personal struggles and acceptances point out what is really important. Classrooms in 23 schools across the State participated in the Disabilities Awareness Program last year. Many more schools will join the program this year.
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