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W.Va. Schools To Recognize Disability History Week For First Time

October 16, 2006

CHARLESTON, W.Va. – Sir Winston Churchill, the eloquent scholar who led Great Britain through World War II, worked all his life to over come a speech impediment. First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt and Henry Ford both had attention deficit disorder. And actor James Earl Jones, whose resonant voice has been part of American movies for years, once stuttered badly.  

West Virginia students will learn about the accomplishments of these and others with disabilities this week in the state’s first Disability History Week. Legislation signed into law in March designates the third week in October as Disability History Week in West Virginia so that students and the public will have the opportunity to learn more about the history and contributions of people with disabilities.  

“This is landmark legislation that shines the light on the contributions and challenges people with disabilities face every day,” said state Superintendent of Schools Steve Paine. “Disability can happen any time -- today, tomorrow, next week, or next year. The more children know about disabilities and the current perspectives of people with disabilities, the more likely they will be able to reject stereotypes and outdated ways of thinking.”  

The bill was created by delegates to the 2005 West Virginia Youth Disability Caucus made up of young people with disabilities ranging in age from 16 to 21. The legislation requires public schools to provide information on disability history, people with disabilities and the disabilities rights movement and encourages colleges and universities to conduct and promote activities that provide education, awareness and understanding of disability history. It also encourages the Legislature to provide recognition through an annual, joint proclamation and to provide resources for instruction and activities.  

People with disabilities are increasingly present in America’s workplaces, stores, transportation systems and public facilities. They make up an estimated 20 percent of society or nearly 53 million people. And the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act has resulted in millions of students with disabilities receiving a public education.  

“Students with disabilities are attending regular school programs in increasing numbers,” Paine said. “By focusing on disability history, teachers can encourage a respect for diversity and differences.”  

Teachers are encouraged to invite guest speakers to their classrooms, which could be a parent or community member. Teachers can also gain ideas from the following links:  

Public Service Announcement (Video) http://wvde.state.wv.us/psa1/  

Resources http://wvde.state.wv.us/tt/2006/dis-res.doc  

Resources Part 2 http://wvde.state.wv.us/tt/2006/dis-res2.doc  

Famous People http://wvde.state.wv.us/tt/2006/dis-fam.pdf  

Disabilities Jeopardy http://wvde.state.wv.us/tt/2006/dis-jeopardy.doc  

Disability Timeline http://wvde.state.wv.us/tt/2006/dis-timeline.doc  

For more information about Disability History Week, contact Regina Scotchie, social studies coordinator for the West Virginia Department of Education, at (304) 558-7805.

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