Today marks the first day of February and the official start of the sixth annual Jewish Disability Awareness Month. JDAM is designed to be a unified initiative to raise disability awareness and support efforts to foster inclusion in Jewish communities worldwide.
But I have to be honest. I struggle with the concept of disability awareness. When we look around us we can readily notice that people come in all shapes and sizes, each one of us different than every other. I really do not think that we need people to become more aware of disabilities, but rather to learn how to be genuinely accepting of one another's differences. And I am not alone. I recently read a great post by self-advocate Emily Ladau in which she writes, “My deepest passion as a disability rights advocate lies not in the act of “raising awareness,” but in promoting acceptance…Dr. (Martin Luther) King did not want to achieve “black awareness,” and I can guarantee that if anyone tried to campaign for black awareness, there would be more (rightfully) angry and offended people than you’ve ever seen in your life. Why doesn’t the same logic apply for disabilities? Just as being black is part of a person’s identity, so too is disability a part of a person’s identity.”
And yet, we have entered Jewish Disability Awareness Month. For me, the key distinction is that we work to raise awareness that, yes, there are Jews with disabilities; but more importantly, many of those Jews with disabilities are not yet meaningfully included in synagogue and Jewish organizational life. The value of this month lies in raising the awareness that there is so much more we can and should be doing to include those with disabilities in our Jewish communities. (The JDAM tagline: from awareness to inclusion, supports this notion.)
I will be blogging each day during the month of February in honor of JDAM. You can read more here about this initiative. I am excited to share my thoughts, and to read yours. I hope to hear many new voices.
At the bottom of this post you will find a place to link up your blogs. This will allow readers to find one another’s posts, spread the word about their own and generally serve as an online gathering space for JDAM blogging efforts. Feel free to come back often and link each of your #JDAMblogs posts.
Tag every post with #JDAMblogs. The purpose of the hashtag is to help us to find and share one another’s posts via social media. I encourage you to tweet at me and tag me on Facebook so that I can share your content. (#JDAM14 is the other hashtag being used for general JDAM information, resources and events.)
As a Jewish Special Educator, I realize that the vague nature of “join me in blogging” might be overwhelming for some. While you are free to blog on anything that relates to disability, accessibility, inclusion, etc., some may appreciate prompts to get their creative juices flowing:
- Week 1: Personal/professional stories or experiences of Jewish disability inclusion
- Week 2: The value of inclusion, the meaning of inclusion, the importance of inclusion
- Week 3: Barriers to inclusion, challenges to overcome, frustrations, goals yet to be met
- Week 4: Success stories
And if writing is “not your thing”, share a photo or artwork or a quote or a video. Honor your own expressive style and do what is most comfortable and most accessible for you. Don’t shy away from sharing your voice!
Together our voices will be loud and we can move the Jewish world from awareness to inclusion!