Debunking Deluded Stereotypes During Disability Awareness Month

Using Disability Awareness Month to spread awareness and become more inclusive


Ashtyn Barnes

Nate Carey, 9, and Aaliyah Hinton, 12, students in Mr. Munden’s classroom, relaxing after learning a new lesson.

Ashtyn Barnes, Editor

October is Disability Awareness Month and while it is common for administrators and teachers to mention the cause and take a couple of brisk moments to speak about it with students but despite the discussions, differences in peers and miscommunications about the subject are still a constant problem across the board.

Throughout the month we are reminded to take a step back and consider the fact that we may not know potential struggles our peers may face. Several students at Western Branch have a variety of disabilities.

“I am deaf and would always love to participate with others, so I don’t feel left out. I don’t think we’re just like everybody else because if you look at all of us the same, I feel that’s kind of ableism,” Maria Journiette, 12, said.

There are also students at Western Branch that have family members with disabilities.

“My brother Nathaniel has congenital heart disease and he was diagnosed with Autism later on after he was born and it changed everything about my family dynamic,” Hannah Bartholomew, 12, said, “from the way we travel to the way we communicate and the compassion I have for others.” 

We also have a great appreciation at the school for our special education teachers. Many didn’t plan to get into this field of teaching but were instead called to be educators of exceptional learners.

“I thought I wanted to be a history teacher, but from the first experience I had with working with people with disabilities I knew right away that history wasn’t what I wanted to do and I wanted to work in special education,” Robert Munden, a Special Education teacher at Western Branch, said.

In a survey sent out to the student body, 66.3% chose a response that said all of their friends are kind to the special education students; however, 31.3% said that majority of their peers are kind to our disabled students, but they also have a few that don’t show the same levels of compassion.

“Many times I have seen these moments throughout my education and time as a teacher, the glances and pointing,” Munden said.

For many students in the building, it’s something they’re not used to experiencing on a daily basis, but it needs to be normalized and synchronously denormalize the awkward looks and uncomfortable stares.

“I’ve seen them[students] openly mock people with disabilities or even unknowingly do it, it’s not always on purpose, and those are teachable moments,” Munden said.

It’s not just limited to inside the school, many adults act similarly. It’s also throughout the community such as stores or restaurants where families are spending time with one another.

“My whole family went to dinner and I wasn’t working that night and I went with them. He’s[My brother] just really loud when he’s excited like he’ll squeal or scream so to other people it could sound obnoxious,” Bartholomew said. “My coworker did not know it was my brother and walked out past our table and kind of made a big deal out of it.”

With the 80 survey responses received from the student body, 81.3% said people who have disabilities are the same as everyone else. 

“It’s not fair to say that just because someone has to work around a disability that it means they’re any different than the rest of us.  We all bleed red, regardless of how our body works,” Hannah Tuggle, 12, said.

18.8% of student survey responses said that they have differences.

“As a person with a disability, I am not like everyone else. This idea of equality is false, we are different, and ignoring it is not helping,” an Anonymous student, said.

Being more involved in Disability Awareness Month has the potential to open new doors for individuals across the border as well as making people more aware of their surroundings and desensitizing the stigma created about the disabilities.

“Definitely have more compassion towards other people, I think that’s the main problem with this society is that most people don’t grow up with things like that,” Bartholomew said. “When you see weird things the initial reaction is to stare or laugh or make obnoxious comments.”

Out of the survey responses received, 95% said that they would be willing to make friends with people who have disabilities. 

“I always tell others to never be rude to my friends with disabilities because being disabled wasn’t a choice and just because they’re disabled doesn’t make them any different, “Gabriella Booker, 10, said. “Having friends that were defined as disabled helped me understand their ways in everyday life and how they do things.”

Even though this is an amazing number, that still leaves 5% who do not feel the same and don’t feel comfortable.

“I will be the first to admit I still get anxious when I talk to kids with disabilities because they’re not all my brother, certain ones have different things like being touchy or being loud,” Bartholomew said. “I say just take it with a grain of salt, wouldn’t you rather make someone’s day by waving or saying hi?”