Ableism – discrimination against people with disabilities – has devastating consequences for many individuals. Specifically during the COVID-19 pandemic, the prevalence of ableism has have become increasingly apparent.
Ableism can take on many forms. In most cases, it involves others considering people with disabilities to be inferior from abled counterparts, and defining them by their conditions, rather than perceiving them as three-dimensional individuals.
In middle school, students with special needs were often excluded by others and called names such as “weird” as well as the “r-word”. A study conducted by the National Library of Medicine revealed that 92% of youth had heard the “r-word” at some time. So how do individuals and organizations combat this issue?
Best Buddies is an international organization dedicated to providing jobs, leadership opportunities, better living situations, inclusion, and friendship to people with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (IDD). The Lexington High School Best Buddies chapter contributes to Best Buddies’ missions in many significant ways. The club supports and befriends Lexington students with IDDs—spending time with them after school, at club events, and doing community service together.
For this school year, the club has been hosting monthly COVID-safe dances, each month with its tailored theme: Halloween for the October dance and St. Patrick’s Day for the upcoming March one. In addition, they also worked with the Lex Stop Hunger club to host a food drive for the Lexington Food Pantry.
One of the club’s most recent events was a Valentine’s Day card-making event. The club members made Valentine’s Day cards for residents at a local nursing home, spreading joy and kindness during a year that has been especially stressful for the elderly.
The Best Buddies club makes an immeasurable difference in the life of a student with IDDs.
Ableism may be a pervasive issue, but we can take individual action to nullify its ramifications. Remember, if we work together, we will bring about a better tomorrow. One card, one smile, one friend. That’s all it takes to bring a smile to someone’s face and make a difference.