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The Importance of Disabilities Awareness
Disabilities Awareness has played an important role in my life. My present interest in it grew out of my early involvement as a child. In elementary school I was given the chance to serve as a student judge for disabilities awareness art contests sponsored by the NYS Commission on Quality of Care. Children from schools all across New York State were asked to send in drawings to express their personal message of equality and acceptance of people with disabilities. It was frightening to see how many drawings inadvertently depicted a negative message instead of the positive one called for by the contest guidelines. Later I experienced the same feeling when I judged a disabilities awareness writing contest and read many of the entries submitted by middle school students.
After seeing so many negative representations of people with disabilities, I decided I wanted to do something to help change the common misconceptions the general public had. I started to take notice of the challenges that people with disabilities faced every day. Some of them were concrete problems like the inaccessibility of buildings and the lack of accessible public transportation. I began to notice where people with disabilities couldn't go. I began to see that some of the worst challenges they faced, however, were attitude problems like the endless teasing or using the names of different disabilities as insults. I began to notice how people communicated (or failed to communicate) with disabled people. I observed that people thought someone with a disability was only a disability, therefore less human, and inferior to us. Expectations were low for them and they were more often sitting alone in a school cafeteria or not included in social events after school.
I hoped that my involvement in a New York State publication like the Disabilities Awareness Newsletter would help correct some of the misconceptions and lack of information I observed in my own world. I began to write articles that centered around positive accomplishments achieved by active members of our community who happen to have a disability.
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