The Disability History Contest Committee is proud to announce the 2017 Disability History Essay Contest in West Virginia! This contest is designed to provide you with an opportunity to showcase your writing skills, share what you have learned about the Disability Rights Movement, use your ability to form and rights and responsibilities essay opinions, and perhaps to earn some money to help you into your future!
All high school seniors are invited to submit an entry. 2017 Essay Contest Entry Form. All entries must include the completed entry form and must comply with all contest rules. While federal law prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities we still face barriers every day. How technology has removed barriers and improved the lives of people with disabilities.
The top award will be presented to the state winner, and awards may be presented to first-place and second-place entries from six Districts of our state. Each Fall since 2012, the Statewide Independent Living Council and the State Rehabilitation Council has held the Disability History Essay Contest to celebrate Disability History Week in West Virginia. This contest gives WV High School Seniors an opportunity to showcase their writing skills, share their knowledge of the Disability Rights Movement and perhaps earn some money to help advance their future! The contest is supported by a generous grant from the WV Division of Rehabilitation Services which allows us to award cash prizes to the winners. The winning essays and their authors are recognized and presented with a check each year at the Senior Awards Ceremony at their respective high schools. This contest is a collaborative effort of the West Virginia Division of Rehabilitation Services, the Statewide Independent Living Council and the State Rehabilitation Council, with cooperation from the West Virginia Department of Education and the West Virginia Department of Education and the Arts.
The winners and their essays are published each year in our Special Edition Newsletter. Defy Disability: Put People First, which has been a passion of hers. She will be attending West Virginia University pursuing a degree in nursing. The barriers for people with disabilities in my community and how I can make a difference. Have you ever stopped and thought about what it would be like to not be able to walk? What would it be like to struggle to speak to others in everyday life or perform simple tasks?
How would you feel if your family member struggled with a disability and your only wish was for other people to see them as you do – a happy, loving soul who is just like you and me? I have a close friend named Anthony. As we spent time together, I would see others treat him differently. From subtle stares to blatant ridicule, I could see they saw him for his disability. They judged from a place of unknowing and fear, as their words and behavior revealed their hurtful thoughts. I wanted people to see Anthony like I see Anthony.
He is my friend who still loves to watch Sponge Bob with me, because you are never really too old for Sponge Bob. Anthony always keeps a smile on your face with his humor and wit. You never know what he is going to say next, but Anthony always knows what to say. I saw the effect it had on him when people would stare because his walk is different or would make fun of him because he sometimes likes to rock back and forth. As much as it upset me to watch that happen to my friend, I know it hurt him more. I wanted to do something that would make a difference, not only for Anthony, but others in my community who have a disability.
Anthony and my other friends who have been diagnosed with a physical or mental disability do not deserve to hear the words “crazy” and “psycho” in the hallways of my school. How could I make a difference in my community? I started my research around disability rights issues and found my passion. I could advocate for Anthony and others by encouraging my peers to treat everyone with respect.
The language a society uses shapes their ideas and beliefs, so I learned the concept of “People First Language. People First Language is a method of communication that shows we see the person before their disability. For example, you would never use hurtful words such as “sped” or “crippled” and you would not say things like “that autistic boy. Instead you call the person by their name.
You do not use the disability to describe the person. People First Language is the first step toward eliminating hurtful stereotypes and the devaluing of a person with a disability. Hensel, disability advocate and Guinness World Record holder for the longest wheelchair wheelie, said, “There is no greater disability in society than the inability to see a person as more. This is why I believe the best way for me to knock down the barriers in my community is to fight the stigma of disability and to make sure we value everyone as individuals with gifts unique to each of us. People with disabilities face stereotypes, prejudices, and injustices each and every day. For the past two years, I participated in Disability Awareness Day at the West Virginia State Legislature with a focus on promoting the use of People First Language. I was overjoyed when the West Virginia Legislature passed House Bill 2797 one of the items I advocated for on Disability Awareness Day.
This bill changed all West Virginia law by removing the term “retarded” from state code. When the bill was signed into law on March 25, 2015, I knew I had made at least a small difference by educating my fellow West Virginians and spreading the importance of People First Language. When I returned as a student advocate for the 2016 Disability Awareness Day, I set my table up just outside the Senate chambers to access as many lawmakers as possible. I focused on advocating for adding a requirement to state code that People First Language be taught in West Virginia schools as a part of Disability Awareness Week.
I was able to provide lawmakers and everyone I spoke to with an awareness wristband that promotes People First Language with the slogan, “Defy Disability: Put People First. I believe it is crucially important to educate both my peers and elementary age children about the importance of People First Language. The greatest strides for change often occur when children learn belief systems that respect and include everyone. I have had the opportunity to go into elementary and middle school classrooms to teach students about People First Language and the importance of putting the person before the disability. I was fortunate to request and receive interactive brochures from the Developmental Disabilities Council that promote the use of People First Language to hand out in my community. When those were depleted, I developed my own interactive presentation about the use of People First Language that definitely kept the interest of the classroom. As I left, I always gave every student one of the, “Defy Disability: Put People First,” awareness wristbands.