I was informed earlier in the year that October would be "Disability Awareness and History Month". After speaking to other advocates, reviews were mixed. Of course we should be teaching about the history, accomplishments and contributions people with disabilities now and over the years have made. It is important to include perspectives of people with various differences into aspects of education.
But it is most important to see true inclusion, accessibility and respect for people with disabilities as an ongoing practice, not a special event. Having a special day, month, or week to include people with disabilities is sort of in conflict to what we work for throughout every day of the year.
I noticed the Superintendent's message on the Fox C-6 website dated October 14th and thought about this. People have been working for years to determine ways to end the systemic practice in schools of dismissing students with disabilities early. We have talked about "special prom" and how it is more beneficial, and fair, to ensure the annual school prom is inclusive and accessible to all students to begin with, rather than holding a separate event. We have talked about how separate, special events, and the routine early dismissal of students based on their differences are sending the wrong message.
It is not a consistent or meaningful message when we say one thing and practice another as a system, as a culture, or as a society. So, while I am personally encouraged by the fact that Fox C-6 is promising to include disability awareness and history month into schools, I hope to see leadership here with the ending of the practice of early dismissal for students with disabilities.
If our leadership truly recognizes people with disabilities as people with rights, potential, feelings, thoughts and perspectives, why would we ever accept a separate school schedule for students with disabilities? Why would we ever accept the idea of "separate but equal" for events, for school days, or activities? A special message on a website is nice, but I want to see people in leadership positions walking their talk.
What if Dr. Temple Grandin had been passed off to a resource room in school? What if she had been dismissed an hour or so earlier than the rest of her peers every single day? Perhaps she would not be "Dr." Grandin at all.