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The Student Newspaper of Jackson-Reed High School

The Beacon

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DSA spreads awareness for people with disabilities

Edie Young
PLEDGE TO END – The Disability Student Alliance created a pledge to end use of the r-slur. The DSA strives to create a safe environment for all by eliminating the use of the word at JR.

Disability Awareness Month is coming up! The first Wednesday of March is National Spread The Word To End The Word day: a day spent educating people on the harmful effects of the r-slur, a word used to insult and put down disabled people. It’s time to educate people about disability and destroy stereotypes. 

The Jackson-Reed Disability Student Alliance (DSA) hosted a Spread The Word To End The Word event in the atrium during STEP on Wednesday, December 6, 2023. At the event, students signed a banner with a pledge to stop using the r-slur. Students would then receive a sticker with the colors of the disability pride flag (black for disabled people who have died due to ableism, violence, suicide, and eugenics; red for physical disabilities; gold for neurodivergence; white for invisible and undiagnosed disabilities; blue for psychiatric disabilities; green for sensory disabilities) and the words “I Pledged to #EndTheWord!” Over 30 people were present at the event.

Junior Edie Young started DSA last year to have a space for disabled students and their allies to be themselves and educate the student body. “I’m disabled and noticed that there was no space for disabled students to have a community and a space where they could be themselves, advocate, and interact with one another,” said Young. “I wanted to create a space at Jackson-Reed where disabled students could come and know they will be accepted. School is often a place where disabled students are isolated outside of special education classes. I believe everyone at school deserves to have a safe space and be included in school events.”

The r-slur was originally a medical term used to describe intellectually disabled people, but the meaning has shifted and the new term is “Intellectual Disability” or “Developmental Disability”. However, this hasn’t stopped people from using the r-slur as an insult against their peers. 

One autistic person discussed his experiences with ableism at school: “I pass as allistic (not autistic) for the most part so whenever I hear the r-slur being used it can be hard to speak up against it, because I don’t want to have to explain to everyone that I’m autistic [as] it can be a personal thing. Whenever I hear the r-slur being used it just hurts and feels like a punch to the gut.” This student passes as allistic because of masking. 

Masking is when autistic people hide their neurodivergent traits to be accepted by their neurotypical peers. For example, an autistic person may suppress stims to be accepted by their peers. Stimming is self-stimulatory behavior, such as hand flapping and rocking back and forth. Stimming can take many different forms and helps neurodivergent individuals calm down, express themselves, and help with over-stimulation. Masking can cause mental health complications, such as anxiety and depression. Autism can also present differently in different people, so it might not be noticed by other people. 

DSA SHINES LIGHT – The Disability Student Alliance hosted an event in the atrium about ending use of the r-slur. The alliance is participating in National Spread the Word to End the Word day.

Neurodivergent people can succeed with proper accommodations. Accommodations are adjustments made to a person’s environment to help them succeed. Examples of accommodations at school would be extended time on assignments or completing an alternate assignment than their peers. Lukas Eade, an educational aide and one of the teachers who attends DSA meetings, says that while Jackson-Reed offers accommodations for students with disabilities, the student body itself has room to become more accepting of their disabled peers. Though it is “difficult to change behaviors and habits in one day,” campaigns like Spread The Word To End The Word can help foster acceptance and understanding. “It upsets me when people use [the r-slur]. There are so many better ways to express your feelings, and resorting to such a harmful word is sad to me,” Eade said. 

Disabled people are deserving of love and respect from their peers and teachers. Stopping the use of the r-slur is a step closer towards acceptance for all people regardless of disability. “People should not be calling disabled people stupid because that’s not fair,” said DSA Vice President Bennett Younger. Young echoed the sentiment, saying “it’s like a road and that we’re all just on different paths to get to the same destination.” The DSA will continue to advocate for disability rights and acceptance through campaigns and events throughout the year, including the Disability Justice Fair in late March.

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