July is Disability Pride Month!
On July 26th, 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act was signed into law. It is a landmark federal civil rights legislation that prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in everyday activities. Under the Act, a person with a disability is defined someone who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities; has a history or record of such an impairment; or is perceived by others as having such an impairment. Disabilities may be broadly categorized into auditory; cognitive, learning, or neurological; physical; speech; or visual impairments or conditions. They may be present at birth, called congenital disabilities; develop at any point in a person's lifetime; be caused by injury or trauma; or be associated with other chronic conditions or illnesses.
33 years later people with disabilities are still fighting for equal rights and justice. Ableism plays a major role and can further lead to discrimination in education, employment, and healthcare. Ableism is defined as "a set of beliefs or practices that devalue and discriminate against people with physical, intellectual, and/or psychiatric disabilities and often rests on the assumption that disabled people need to be 'fixed' in one form or another."
On a recent episode of the Laura Flanders show, Anita Cameron and Keith Jones, leaders in the disability rights and disability justice movements, discuss what ableism is and why it is still a prominent problem.
Dear residents, neighbors, and friends:
In 2020, Netflix released a documentary directed, written, and co-produced by Nicole Newnham and James LeBrecht about a summer camp in the New York Catskills for people with disabilities. The campers were instrumental in leading the movement for disability rights and ultimately the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. The award -winning documentary sends a universal message: Inspired youth can lead radical movements with world-changing results.
Camp Jened was founded in 1951 for disabled children, teens, and adults to provide a nurturing community for people with a range of disabilities. By the 1960s and 1970s the camp was heavily influenced by 60s counterculture and hippie values. The camp allowed its campers and counselors to envision a world where people with disabilities were not excluded. Staff without disabilities were able to understand the struggles of those with disabilities, which led “Jenedians” becoming politically active. For example, some campers joined the Center for Independent Living in Berkeley, California. The center supported the independence, dignity, and self-determination of people with disabilities and as a result the concept of independent living became of cornerstone of the disability rights movement. Despite the camp’s success, it closed in 1977 due to financial difficulties. It reopened in Rock Hill, New York in 1980 before closing for good in 2009.
As we celebrate the 33rd anniversary of the ADA, it is important that we recognize the power of youth led movements. Youth movements have become a prominent feature of modern society and technology has given them the opportunity to more loudly make their voices heard, particularly in digital spaces. Here are several disability activists that have been able to ignite conversations around disability, ableism, and accessibility in the digital space: Nicole Parish (@SoundOfTheForest), an extreme bug enthusiast who shares her experience as a adult with autism spectrum disorder; Imani Barbarin (@Crutches_And_Spice), an activist and communications specialist who discusses racism and ableism in digital spaces; and Haben Girma (@HabenGirma), a human rights lawyer who is deafblind and shares her experiences fighting for inclusion and accessibility.
Joining the fight for disability rights now is necessary because at some point in a person’s life they will experience a temporary or permanent disability. Ensuring accessibility beyond physical accommodations should be top priority because it will benefit everyone, regardless of their current disability status. It is also important to remember that if you live in, work in, or visit the District, disability is a protected trait in all four enforcement areas: educational institutions, employment, housing, and public accommodations and government services. If you or someone you know feels like they have been discriminated against you can visit our website, ohr.dc.gov, to learn more about how to file a complaint.
Yours in Service,
Trait of the Month:
Under the D.C. Human Rights Act of 1977, disability is defined as "a physical or mental impairment substantially limiting one or more major life activities; physical can include auditory, speech, visual, and/or neurological impairments and mental can include cognitive and learning impairments."
DID YOU KNOW: Ableism shows up in many forms. Here are some of the most common:
- Failing to provide accessibility beyond wheelchair ramps.
- Failing to check one’s privilege as a person without a disability.
- Assuming people with disabilities have no autonomy.
- Feeling entitled to know how someone became disabled.
- Assuming that disability is always visible.
- Viewing a person with a disability as inspirational for doing typical things, i.e., having a job/career.
- Assuming a physical disability is the result of laziness or lack of exercise.
- Using public facilities, such as parking spaces or restrooms, that are meant for people with disabilities.
- Talking to a person with a disability like they are a child.
- Wearing scented products in a scent-free environment.
- Not using closed captioning or audio descriptions.
- Choosing inaccessible venues for meetings or events.
- Using someone’s mobility device as a hand or footrest and/or using them for ‘fun’
What's New and Upcoming
The Youth Bullying Prevention Act of 2012 (YBPA; DC Code § 2-1535.03) and its implementing regulations require schools and other youth-serving organizations (including, but not limited to, government agencies, libraries, nonprofits, and community centers) to adopt comprehensive anti-bullying policies, implement thorough reporting and investigation procedures, provide training for staff, and maintain and report incident data. The law further requires the Mayor to report to Council the current implementation of the Act and to provide a summary of the status of bullying in the District of Columbia (DC) on a biennial basis. This report serves to fulfill this requirement for school years (SY) 2020-2021 and 2021-2022. As with the previous iterations of the report, this report provides a detailed summary of each education institution’s engagement with the YBPA.
- The COVID-19 pandemic and the related shift to virtual schooling in SY 2020-2021 dramatically decreased the number of reported bullying incidents; although allegations rebounded in SY 2021-2022, they were still lower than pre-pandemic statistics. Schools reported receiving just 152 allegations of bullying in SY 2020-2021, a decrease from 1,344 in SY 2019-2020. In SY 2021- 2022, reported allegations returned to similar levels as SY 2019-2020, with 1,293allegations.
- The overall percentage of DC schools that are fully compliant with the YBPA’s four requirements decreased from SY 2019-2020. Only 19 percent of schools were fully compliant with the YBPA in SY 2021-2022, compared with 26 percent in SY2019-2020.
- Schools are using both exclusionary and restorative justice methods to address incidents of bullying. Over two-thirds (68%) of schools with at least one incident of bullying used exclusionary discipline (i.e., suspension, expulsion, referral to law enforcement). This represents an increase from 57 percent in SY 2019-2020. Similarly, 69 percent of schools also addressed incidents of bullying with restorative justice practices. Counseling or other mental health services were used in 39 percent of the cases.
- Schools reported that, post-pandemic, many students are in need of basic social and emotional supports to prevent peer conflict and bullying. In qualitative data, schools reported that upon return to in-person learning in SY 2021-2022, many students needed supports to reintegrate into the school community and establish positive school climates.