Accessible Forums for Social Justice, Disabilities

Disability Rights Washington

A man in a wheelchair waiting for a train. Photo by Igor Rodrigues on Unsplash

My mother used to be a special education aid in a classroom. The stories she’d tell to my brother and me were always full of life, laughter, and love. As a young child, I only thought of my mother as a teacher’s aid to students, mainly because that’s how she described them. I would have never thought that the students my mother loved so much would be any different than myself. In high school, I went to a middle-class school in a suburb of Sacramento. The only time I saw students with disabilities was in the cafeteria at lunchtime. They were secluded to the back of the lunchroom at a table no one else would sit at. Occasionally, a student would make a crude joke point and laugh and it hurts my heart remembering how many people giggled. 

I often hear the rhetoric of “Giving a voice to the voiceless” or “Fighting for those who can not fight for themselves.” These cliche statements are problematic for me personally because people with disabilities are not voiceless and I’m pretty sure if you told Judith Heumann that she couldn’t fight for herself she’d laugh at you. These comments may seem helpful and well-meaning, but they are just more microaggressions hurled at a group of oppressed people. Instead of making blanket statements, there are organizations right now doing the work to protect human rights for those with disabilities. 

WHY?

This group of students needs organizations like Disability Rights Washington because they have been historically oppressed. Social stratification has left them on the lower end of hierarchy and prioritizing able-bodied people since the beginning of time. Just a few years ago when the pandemic started the DRW filed the first complaint toward the state’s rationing plan because it was discriminatory against people with disabilities.  

A brief history of the educational organization that you have researched along with the purpose of the organization. 

DRW was founded by two women; Katie Dolan and Janet Taggart. These women worked together and with others to found Northwest Center which was responsible for opening a school for children with disabilities in 1965. This school served these children because they weren’t being served in the public school system. In 1971 these women amongst others helped secure and enact the nation’s first mandatory special education act.

Disability Rights Washington is a non-profit organization whose mission is, “to advance the dignity, equality, and self-determination of people with disabilities. We work to pursue justice on matters related to human and legal rights.” The organization envisions a society where everyone is equal and treated with dignity and where there are equal opportunities for all. 

Who They Serve?

They help serve those with disabilities and their families in a multitude of ways. The main resource this organization gives to the group of people they support is access to advocacy. The organization believes that all people have moral and constitutional rights and that these rights should not be invalidated based on ability.

Programs Offered? 

Disability Rights Washington offers serval programs. There is AVID which is working to preserve the rights of incarcerated people with disabilities. They have a community inclusion program that works to secure support and accommodations for meaningful community connections through their advocacy work. Another is the disability mobility initiative which is raising awareness for the need of consistent and reliable transportation for those with a disability. Their Story map of this initiative is a great tool to see the stories of those impacted by this issue.

Possible Improvements? 

The strides and work of this organization are very important and I don’t want to take away from that; however, I don’t see a lot of emphasis on younger individuals. Something I’d like to see within the space of community inclusion is advocating for more accessible communal areas such as parks. 

Site Accessibility.

The site was very accessible. They put in an immense amount of thought for example, within their videos they used a way of describing their appearance and the room they were in while introducing themselves. 

Other Organizations.

The ARC of King County started in 1936 from a group of parents fighting for their children with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Their mission is to fight for children’s rights to access housing, education, employment, and community resources.

Northwest Center People of all Abilities  was founded by four women determined to change the course of history for their children. They refused to intutionalize their children with intellectual and developmental disabilities. They started Northwest Center and hired teachers to develop educational programs for their children and other students. The mission is maintained by promoting growth and independence for those with disabilities.

References

Disability Rights Washington. (2020, March 16). Mission, Vision & Values. Retrieved 2022, from https://www.disabilityrightswa.org/mission-vision-values/

Northwest Center. (n.d.). Northwest Center About. Retrieved 2022, from https://www.nwcenter.org/at-a-glance.html

The ARC of King County. (n.d.). The Arc of King County : About : Mission & Vision. Retrieved 2022, from https://arcofkingcounty.org/about/

Photo Credit

Photo by Igor Rodrigues on Unsplash