Recognizing that awareness is an ongoing process not limited to one month of the year, lawmakers, educators, state officials, students and members of the disability community joined together Oct. 13 at William Henry Middle School in Dover to raise awareness for those with disabilities.


    Recognizing that awareness is an ongoing process not limited to one month of the year, lawmakers, educators, state officials, students and members of the disability community joined together Oct. 13 at William Henry Middle School in Dover to raise awareness for those with disabilities.
    House Concurrent Resolution 19, sponsored by Rep. Quinn Johnson (D-8th district) proclaims October as “Disability History and Awareness Month” in Delaware and encourages all Delaware schools annually during the month of October to provide instruction and events focusing on disability history, people with disabilities and the disability rights movement.
    “As a parent of a child with a disability, I am well aware that a greater awareness is needed,” said Johnson, whose son, Quinton V, 14, is profoundly deaf. “The more information that is out there, the more accepted people with disabilities are. Education at an early age is the key. This is an excellent opportunity for kids to learn so when they do encounter others with disabilities, it will be easier for them to associate naturally. Doing so will help ensure that those with disabilities have the same opportunities to succeed.”
    Sen. Bethany Hall-Long (D-10th district) was the measure’s prime sponsor in the Senate. She said setting aside a month to raise awareness about disabilities is important as a means of reducing fears and prejudice against people with disabilities.
    “The more education and awareness, the more likely there will be less prejudice and discrimination to those who have disabilities,” Hall-Long said. “It’s important to bring it forth and to have it not only be on the calendar, but to have it be in the classroom with peers and children.”
    As part of Disability History and Awareness Month, the Governor’s Advisory Council for Exceptional Citizens is assembling four newsletters about disabilities to send to public schools throughout the state. The newsletters will include interviews with students, parents and teachers about the importance of raising awareness and what it means to them. The council also is coordinating with teacher resource centers and early childhood resource centers to include materials on the subject.
    “It is important that the youth of today understand the history of the disability rights movement in order to appreciate how individuals with disabilities were once viewed and treated,” said Wendy Strauss, executive administrator of the GACEC. “During the observance of a statewide Disability History and Awareness Month, students will be provided with the opportunity to learn how people with disabilities have been instrumental in changing history, and how they have become active participants in changing the prevailing attitudes of society about the needs, desires and capabilities of persons with disabilities.
    “By teaching disability history and awareness in Delaware public schools, we will be taking steps to ensure that the negative aspects of our history are not repeated and that there continues to be movement towards an even more accessible society in future generations.”
    Also during the event, Delcastle Technical High School senior Beverly Walker unveiled a flier that will be distributed to public schools throughout the state. The flier details just a few famous people who have achieved great success despite having a disability, such as Thomas Edison, Albert Einstein, James Earl Jones and Tom Cruise. Ms. Walker, who has epilepsy, frontal lobe brain damage, attention deficit disorder (ADD) and a slight hearing loss, said she designed the flier because she wants people to know that “you can do anything, even if you’re disabled.”
    Department of Education Associate Secretary for Curriculum and Instructional Support Dr.         Nancy J. Wilson encouraged the fifth-grade students in attendance Tuesday morning to take note of their fellow classmates who have a disability and to treat them with the same respect they would give to other students.
    “The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is the federal special education law that ensures all children have a right to a free, appropriate public education,” Wilson said.  “IDEA has been one of the most powerful equalizers in our nation and we owe a debt to those parents and other advocates who fought for access to public schools for their children. Today, we recognize the power of that law and its history in ensuring ‘equal rights’ for children with disabilities.”