Students create new student coalition for disability awareness

A new club has found a permanent home at Cedar Falls High School. The student coalition for disability awareness is ready to start making a positive change, club president Jack Baumann said, “We work on a variety of projects to increase disability acceptance and inclusion at CFHS. Among many, we have created and set up the first showcase for Autism Acceptance Month at Cedar Falls High School that is located near the Library. We hope to create more showcases in the future, raising acceptance and awareness for people with disabilities. The projects that we work on embody the essence of what our club is about. Too little is known about disabilities, and we want to change that. Due to this, hate and discrimination against people with disabilities is still an ever so prevalent occurrence. Making CFHS a safe and welcome place for all may be a rocky one, but we’re willing to traverse the bumpy path if it means a better place for all. Looking toward the future, we’d like to host more events that aren’t just meetings. We definitely have our eyes on hosting movie events, special presentations, more showcases and fundraisers to get the word out.” 

 For Baumann, he saw the clock ticking away on chances to raise awareness, so he and junior Natalie Olsen started the club. “You know, there comes a time when an oppressed people becomes trampled on. There’s a time where the cup of injustice fills to the top, overflowing with hatred from ignorance. To me, the inspiration to create such a club with my friend Natalie [Olsen] a while back, before winter break. We’re both disabled individuals, one physically and the other mentally, and it’s fair to say that our cup of injustice has been overflowing for far too long now. School has always been difficult for me, trying to put up with the plights that occur on an everyday basis. I’m autistic myself and have had to put up with slurs, offensive jokes and bullying for being myself. Ableism is still a daily occurrence, and it isn’t an uncommon sight to hear ableist slurs in the hallway on a daily basis. Having to put up with such discrimination became tiresome, so we created the student coalition for disability awareness. The first club at CFHS with the mission of promoting awareness and acceptance of people with disabilities. To be quite frank, the SCDA wasn’t created just because. It was created as a necessity to solve an issue that has been unaddressed for centuries, not only in Cedar Falls, but around the world.”

Baumann was inspired by others who’ve stood up for causes. “In addition to unaddressed struggle, I’ve also been inspired by the various leaders of the disability rights and civil rights movements. The late Judy Heumann, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, and their respective movements have been a huge inspiration towards us as a club. They have taught us well, especially on how both love and acceptance can go hand in hand to create a better world. They have also set examples for the rest of society, showing how It’s done, and how it’s possible. I believe that to have acceptance, we need to have discussion. If there is no discussion, there will be no acceptance. We cannot function no more if we are going to allow stereotypes and hatred to paint a false image of what people with disabilities actually are. It’s always the right time to do what is right, and I fundamentally believe that it is about time society comes to accept us for who we are. Discussion is the most important part in advancing society, we need to have all types of discussions in order to break down the barriers that people with disabilities face on a daily basis. We need to come together, as a school, to take a moment to listen and abstain from judgment. This type of discussion is so important because it not only unites CFHS, but the community as a whole. We have to acknowledge the misconceptions, and fight them with discussion. Truthful discussion, in order to combat the stigma. Whether it might be a one on one or a group discussion, they all aid in making CFHS a better place.” 

Baumann said the impact of these projects address universal needs. “We as a country, as a society, need to recognize the humanhood of people with disabilities. If society fails to recognize injustice, then injustice will prevail. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. To be frank, we’re an often forgotten group of people. Just think, the Americans with Disabilities Act, which prohibits discrimination based on disability was passed in 1990. It’s only been 33 years since we’ve gained our civil rights. We still have a long way to go, and we’ve certainly got a while until a dent has been driven into the caste of injustice.” 

For Baumann, the awareness of this new club will help fill a gap for students. “You know, I’ve never seen anything on people with disabilities at CFHS. We’ve just never been taught it, and that’s what causes the stigma. I do believe though that our Autism Acceptance Month project was a tremendous success for us, and really gets the word out there. From my knowledge, this is the first showcase that has been dedicated to people with disabilities. It’s the first of many, in fact, and we can’t wait to create more. I believe that through the projects we’re doing, we’re able to inspire change by making people uncomfortable. You may be wondering, why do I say uncomfortable? Because in my opinion, the fundamental reason that change happens is through discomfort. The projects we’re doing expose students to information that we’ve never been taught. 

“Take our Autism Acceptance Month Project for example. We fundamentally believe that through the power of education, we are able to combat discrimination, injustice and all the other forms of hate that trample on us. Misunderstanding has played a major role in the stigma that people with disabilities have had to face on a daily basis. The lack of education on disabled individuals is concerning. Through constant discussion and exposure. though, we are able to transform the way people see disabilities. Coming together to speak about disabilities, disabled issues and disability acceptance will tear down misconceptions and stereotypes that only fuel hatred. Discussing disabilities will build a brighter future of acceptance.” 

Baumann said the latest club updates are posted on the club’s Instagram at scfacfhs or CFHS Student Coalition for Disability Awareness. The club meets every Thursday during the second shift of power hour in room 2B. 

Baumann said he hopes that in the coming years, this club will continue to spread awareness on disabilities and how to make positive changes within the school and community.He said, “Actions speak louder than words, and as a club who fundamentally believes in acceptance, all are welcomed to join.”

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