Nothing about Us without Us: Promoting Disability History and Awareness in Classrooms | Facing History & Ourselves
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Nothing about Us without Us: Promoting Disability History and Awareness in Classrooms

Explore resources to bring disability education into your classroom and support progress towards an inclusive and equitable society.

According to the World Health Organization, 15% of the global population experiences some form of disability, making up the world’s largest minority. In the US alone, one in four people are disabled. In a world built for some of us, but not all, progress towards a truly inclusive and equitable society can leave no one behind. 

Though the landmark Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was instituted in 1990, disability rights advocacy dates back to the nineteenth century with struggles and triumphs along the way. Coining the slogan, “nothing about us without us,” activists have long asserted that no policies, from education reform, to employment protections, to better treatment and care in hospitals, should be created without the full and direct participation of those it affects. Champions of disability rights, like the late Judy Heumann, have raised awareness and given voice to the cross-section of the movement’s prevailing demands: justice, equal opportunities, and reasonable accommodations.

Disability justice is about political organizing and legal change… but it's also about creating communities where we can be all of ourselves without shame, and with joy.

- Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha, author of Care Work: Dreaming Disability Justice

As the disability rights movement has expanded to disability justice, a framework that recognizes disability and ableism are interconnected with other systems of oppression, we encourage educators to consider how they can include lessons on disability history and awareness to help bridge the inclusion and equity gap. By providing students with the language and opportunities to acknowledge the wide spectrum of diversity, including disability, educators can open the door to meaningful conversations. Facilitating these discussions and actively listening to students' thoughts and observations allows them to make sense of disability based on their own perspectives. Teaching about disability rights not only can increase awareness but also foster empathy and a sense of belonging in classrooms, promoting a more inclusive and compassionate learning environment. Below you will find a compilation of resources to support your classroom instruction. 

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