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Black History Month: Uplifting Disabled Black Americans

This year, we are honoring Black History Month by sharing the stories of both contemporary and historical figures who are changing the course of history. The ways in which we teach our history have often left out the full story. By uplifting these individuals and their work, we hope to add to the fullness of our history and shift the narratives to include the pioneers across all walks of life whose contributions help us imagine a better world.

Dr. Sylvia Walker

Born blind during a time in American history when little was expected from someone with her particular disability, Sylvia Walker spent her formative years challenging those boundaries. She was determined to get an education, and, over the course of ten years, received four degrees and was appointed as an assistant professor in the School of Education at Howard University. She soon became a full-time professor and spent much of her career at Howard University focusing her research on accessibility, or the lack thereof, for folks living with disabilities, especially people of color. In 1975, she founded the Center for the Study of Handicapped Children and Youth at Howard University, which is now the Howard University Center for Disability and Socioeconomic Policy Studies.

Her academic and social contributions to this body of academic literature and research have often gone unnoticed. She played an important role in identifying the lack of rehabilitation support systems for people of color with disabilities. Much of her research paved the way for the legislation that became the foundation of the American Disabilities Act, which passed in 1990. This landmark civil rights legislation prohibits discrimination based on disability.

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Kathy D. Woods

“Kathy D Woods is the founder and CEO of KDW Collection ready wear fashion for Little Women. Recognizing the need for fashion and function for Little Women, Kathy created her own clothing line. She often faces discrimination from investors, other designers and even fabric companies who see her clothes as “one hit wonders.”

She is also an advocate for women with disabilities and speaks publicly about the intersections between disability and being a black woman. She was invited to speak at the White House for 25 anniversary of the ADA. KDW’S success shows the growing awareness for the different clothing needs for disabled people.”- Disabled Black History Month: Week 3 (TOMBOYX).

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Nakia Smith

“Nakia Smith is a Deaf woman known for posting ASL (American Sign Language)  and Deaf culture related videos on her TikTok account for her 360k followers.

Nakia mentioned the importance of preserving Black Deaf stories. She said that she just set up a YouTube account for subscription. She will continue teaching ASL and BASL (Black ASL). You can follow Nakia on Instagram, TikTok, Twitter, and now YouTube. Links to her profiles are in this transcript.” – Deaf TikTok video goes viral (The Daily Moth).

Check out Some More Amazing Folks

Did you know that this month is also Jewish Disability Awareness and Inclusion Month? Learn more about it!

 

Written By Sarah Rosenthal

Sarah Rosenthal was the Community Engagement program manager at B’nai Jeshurun, working on both the Aviv 20s and 30s programming and the Jewish Home Project. She is committed to building community.

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