Supporting individuals with disabilities and reflecting on their contributions and impact
“Sydney Oprah House Sunrise” by Ping Lian Yeak, an internationally recognized artist with autism
This March marks the 36th year that the United States is celebrating National Disability Awareness Month - a powerful time for raising awareness, educating ourselves, and celebrating the amazing and important contributions people with disabilities have made throughout history. 26% of Americans live with a disability. Some of the most charismatic and influential historical figures like Harriet Tubman, Albert Einstein, Frida Kahlo, and Winston Churchill (and many, many others) had disabilities.
At GoBe Kids, we are constantly encouraging one another to learn and evolve so we can better ourselves and help raise the best little ones possible. We invite you to grow with us and learn more about National Disability Awareness Month and how together, we can create a more accepting and passionate world.
Background on National Disability Awareness Month
March was declared National Disability Awareness Month in 1987 by President Ronald Reagan, who suffered from a hearing impairment and wanted to encourage the public to join him in supporting and providing opportunities for fellow citizens with disabilities. Since then, disability advocates - and more specifically the Disability Rights Movement - have worked hard to secure basic human rights for the disabled community.
Before I did the research for this blog post, I would have never realized that access to free public education for the disabled was only officially achieved in 2004 with the reauthorization of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, or that access to employment for people with disabilities has only recently been improved in 2014 with the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act.
The Disability Rights movement is such an inspiring movement because it shows how everyone has a voice (even if they “sound” different!) and can bring about change in our communities through passion, dedication, and unity. What we’ve learned is that there’s still lots of work to be done, like addressing the lack of marriage equality in disabled communities. It’s imperative that we continue to support disability advocates in all the work that they do!
Sharing my Personal Experience
As someone who grew up with a younger sister with autism and an extra half-chromosome, I witnessed first-hand the importance of universal, accessible education and how having one impacted my sister’s self-confidence, socialization, and mental health. School gave her the space she needed to have experiences independent of us, as well as the opportunity to interact with other children who have disabilities similar to hers.
One of my core childhood memories is hearing my sister’s school bus drive up to our house at the end of a long afternoon, and watching as she stepped off happily (and confidently!) chanting the ABC song with her bus driver. The laughter and pure joy on her face that day and many days after that were absolutely priceless to me and my family. It was such a wholesome experience to see how she interacts so positively with her bus driver and peers. I honestly can’t imagine how life would’ve been without access to the awesome friendships with both abled and disabled students, teachers, and enriching experiences she’s had in public school.
These beautiful, heart-warming memories that we have wouldn’t have been possible without the hard work of disability advocates and the support of inclusive communities like we're trying to create here at GoBe. So to those who’ve dedicated their time, effort, and resources to the cause, we’re sending a big “thank you!” your way!
Ways You Can Support National Disability Awareness Month
We enjoyed looking into ways we can support National Disability Awareness Month, and we want to share them with you. If you have other ways we can support that aren’t listed below, please do! You can send us a message on Instagram.
Orange is the official color of National Disability Awareness Month. Throw on an orange t-shirt or tie, paint your nails orange, or play around with your makeup (like lipstick and eyeshadow) to include some orange tones and show your support. Orange symbolizes positivity and energy, and associating it with this month is making the proud statement that disabilities are not inherently negative experiences, but can instead be incredibly positive and meaningful additions to the human experience.
Feature the Hashtag #disabilityawareness on your socials!
26% of Americans have a disability - show your support on social media where everyone can see it. You could easily make someone’s day by showing that they are cared for, heard, and supported while they’re on their daily scroll through TikTok or Instagram.
Read a Book, Listen to a Podcast, or Attend a Local Event!
Educating ourselves on what it means to have a disability, the history of disability rights movements, and what can be done to help may just be the single greatest, most impactful way for us to show our support. If you’re an avid book reader, you might enjoy taking a break from your current book of the month and replacing it with a fresh perspective on disabilities.
Rebekah Taussig’s Sitting Pretty: The View from my Ordinary, Resilient Disabled Body is on the top of my list for a book that gives a very personal and honest discussion about self-worth, identity, and mental health as it relates to the reality of living with one or more disabilities. I’m also looking forward to challenging my perceptions of cognitive and learning disabilities with Dr. Thomas Armstrong’s The Power of Neurodiversity: Unleashing the Advantages of Your Differently Wired Brain, in which he encourages readers to take an open-minded, optimistic perspective of our cognitive differences and similarities.
If you are looking to teach your little ones about disabilities and inclusion this National Disability Awareness Month, there are plenty of children’s books as well to help make the learning process fun and engaging! Here are some of our personal favorites about embracing one another’s differences.
- What Happened to You? by James Catchpole and Karen George
- Can Bears Ski? by Raymond Antrobus and Polly Dunbar
- All the Way to the Top: How One Girl’s Fight for American with Disabilities Changed Everything by Annette Bay Pimentel and Nabi Ali
- Don’t Call Me Special: A First Look at Disability by Pat Thomas
- Boy by Phil Cummings and Shane Devries
- Leo and the Octopus by Isabelle Marinov
- Just Ask!: Be Different, Be Brave, Be You! by Sonia Sotomayor
- We’re Different, We’re the Same (Sesame Street) by Bobbi Kates and Joe Mathieu
- Whoever You Are by Mem Fox and Leslie Staub
Although reading is great, some of us are auditory learners and much prefer learning by listening than by reading. If this is you, you can either look into the audiobook versions of the above books or try some podcasts! Podcasts are also great for those of us who find it hard to make time to read a book with our busy schedules; you can listen on your commute to and from work, while cooking, or doing any other household chore! Here are some podcasts that we will personally be tuning into this month.
- Let’s Talk Learning Disabilities Podcast is a great place to start if you’re looking to better understand the challenges and facets of some of the more “invisible” disabilities and how they may impact that individual’s social life, ability to work in groups, and ability to perform in standardized settings.
Disability Visibility Podcast by the disability rights activist Alice Wong features down-to-earth and informative interviews with disabled people and activists, and aims to provide a platform for educating people on social justice issues that the disabled community continues to face.
- Barrier Free Futures Podcast discusses how disabilities may intersect and interact with other aspects of one’s identity such as ethnicity, age, and socioeconomic background. With highly nuanced, well-thought out episodes at only 28 minutes long, this podcast is great for easy, quick listening!
Why Disability Awareness Matters to GoBe
We are incredibly thankful for our GoBe community which is filled with like-minded parents and kiddos who believe that all people deserve respect and compassion no matter their age, gender, ethnicity, race, or ability. At GoBe, one of our values is to promote and embody inclusivity, emphasizing diversity as something to be celebrated within and beyond our GoBe family. We love all of our friends, family, and customers with disabilities, and are continuously looking for ways to learn and show our support. Recognizing and appreciating differences in others, and treating people how you want to be treated, can make the world a better place for everyone — and can help us realize that everyone, regardless of whether or not you have a disability, can stand out and be uniquely you! Every one of us has our differences and differences in ability are just a part of each person’s unique identity.
Our goal this month is to uplift individuals with disabilities and showcase the amazing talents, stories, and perspectives that they bring through our social media platforms and website. Be on the lookout for some great National Disability Awareness Month content on our socials and blog, and reach out to us if you or a loved one with a disability has a story, talent, or perspective they would like to share with the GoBe Team!
💥📢We want to give a special shout-out to the amazing Malaysian artist and painter Ping Lian Yeak, whose artwork is featured in this blog post. His autism has inspired creativity and a love for art since he was 8 years old; and he’s now an internationally recognized and highly adored artist with works that have sold for thousands of dollars, with a large amount of that being donated to Disability Associations around the world. Check out his website at: www.pinglian.com.
“Artwork takes on added significance when one sees such ability co-exist with dis-ability”
- Dr. Darold Treffert
- Sofia, from the GoBe Team