Helena Donato-Sapp is 14 years old. She is Black. She has multiple disabilities. And, she is the adopted daughter of queer parents. Helena is also an award-winning disability activist. Throughout her educational career, she has needed champions, who she describes as “. . . educators who see all of my assets and champion them, champion me; they do everything in their power to lift me up.”
As we consider the students and people with disabilities that we encounter every day, we must think about the many opportunities we have to champion their efforts to remove barriers and help end ableist practices that devalue those disabilities.
Helena shared an example of one of her champions: Ms. Takii, who had the courage to assess her differently, allowing her to use all of her strengths to demonstrate what she knew. Helena still had to take tests, but they were used to assess her understanding. Champions like Ms. Takii helped Helena recognize her multiple disabilities and see them as her “superpowers,” not deficits.
Each of us has the power to become a champion for change for students, educators, and others with disabilities by putting care first. You may be asking yourself, “What do I need to do to become a champion?” To start, you need to learn about your own biases. Then, you need to learn the tenets of disability etiquette and how to speak about disabilities.
Each month, NEA will feature a new article on topics that will help guide you on your journey as a champion for disability rights and inclusion. In addition to general information, we will also feature opportunities for learning and activities to help you engage on a deeper level.
Check out the “We Need Champions” download below to find out tips and information on featured monthly topics and how you can become a champion for disability rights and inclusion.