Diversity & Equity Newsletter

March 2021

March is Women's History Month

Women's History Month started in 1981 as a week-long campaign to honor the achievements and contributions of women in American society. In 1987, The National Women's History Project petitioned that Women's History Month become a month-long observance and one that is observed annually. This year's theme is Women's Suffrage and the Right to Vote.

Starting first in Wyoming in 1869, women begin gaining the right to vote. In August 1920, with the passage of the 19th Amendment, women gained the right to vote across the United States. This, however, only applied to white women. The push for suffrage began earlier when, in 1848 at the Inaugural Women’s Rights Convention at Seneca Falls, a declaration for equal rights for women was proposed including the right to vote.

Even still, it wasn't until 1962 that Native Americans were given the right to vote in Utah, and then in 1965 President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act which guaranteed voting rights for all races and genders.

Text reading "Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month #DDawareness2021" over a colorful abstract artwork
Artwork by Eileen Schofield, at Art Enables in DC

March is Developmental Disabilities Month

President Ronald Reagan declared March to be Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month in 1987. This was following the deinstitutionalization movement in the 70s and early 80s, which really set the groundwork for major social change regarding disability in regular society.

Until the 1970s, most people with developmental disabilities were placed in institutional settings. Doctors urged parents to place their children into state residential schools, and parents that decided not to place their children struggled to receive any services or help for their kids. Unfortunately, most of these residential training schools were not doing much teaching and were basically storing these people away from the general public. In the 1950s, following the post-war boom, parents started advocacy groups around the country, one of which became The Arc.

In the 60s a new way of thinking started spreading that proposed that people with disabilities should be able to have "the dignity of risk," meaning that people with disabilities should be able to make their own decisions, take chances, live, work, and have normal relationships, and be a member of their community. During this time, there were also public outcries about the living conditions of people in state schools and institutions. This led to most institutions shifting to reduced patient numbers, to most closing altogether by the 2000s. While more and more changes are happening and the lives of people are improving, we should take time to look back, then look to the future and what we can achieve.

Each March the National Association of Councils on Developmental Disabilities (NACDD) and others get together for a social media campaign, #DDawareness2021, to raise awareness and support for various issues affecting the developmental disability communities. This is a great time to think about where we came from, how far we've come, and what changes we still need to achieve. Take some time this month to check out #DDawareness2021 on Twitter, Instagram, and other social media platforms, listen to adults with developmental disabilities as they tell their stories, and maybe even make some new connections!

Diversity Topic: Microaggressions

What are Microaggressions?

Merriam-Webster defines a microaggression as a comment or action that subtly and often unconsciously or unintentionally expresses a prejudiced attitude toward a member of a marginalized group (such as a racial minority). This can also include behavior or speech that is characterized by such comments or actions.

Some examples could be phrases like "You're so articulate." or "You don't look _____." or "You are so pretty for a _____ person." or even "I never would've guessed you were _____."

Other examples could be continuing to mispronounce someone's name after being corrected, or only using heteronormative examples of families/familial roles, or even assuming that all kids in a classroom can afford to do certain activities or acquire certain supplies.

What impact can microaggressions have and how do I avoid using them?

Microaggressions can make people feel uncomfortable, unsafe, or like they don't belong. The effects of microaggressions can last for quite awhile on a person on the receiving end, and can contribute to anxiety and feelings of othering.

When thinking about how to avoid using microaggressions it is important to remember that accidentally using one does not mean you are a bad person, it is a result of growing up in a society with dominant viewpoints that favor certain groups of people. What is important is recognizing when something you said may be perceived in a hurtful way, and owning up and apologizing for it while avoiding doing it again.

Diversity & Equity Committee Member Spotlight

Every month this year we will be spotlighting a different member of the Diversity & Equity Committee. In this space, they will be able to talk about what they do at ASUA, why they are on the committee, and what they like to do in their free time!

This month's spotlight is Crystal.

Big picture

My name is Crystal Ricci (she/her). I started working at a Step Up Academy in 2015 and what an awesome 6 years it has been! I started as an Instructional Assistant and then worked my way up to a Behavior Specialist and now am in the dual role as the Assistant Director of Clinical Programming and Behavior Specialist at the Jenkintown location! I have loved growing my career alongside the growth of our awesome little school. I worked really hard to get here, completing an undergraduate degree in Human Services and a master's degree in Education with a concentration in Applied Behavior Analysis. I received my Behavior Specialist license and am working towards becoming a Board Certified Behavior Analyst. Outside of work I am typically spending time with my family, friends, and my pets (which I have a lot of!) I also LOVE the mountains and spend a lot of my summers on a boat in a small lake in upstate Pennsylvania.

I joined the Diversity and Equity Committee because I believe in a community that supports one another and works together to bridge the gaps caused by differences. It is important to me that we have open discussions regarding topics of cultural competence, gender identity, social and emotional differences, and so much more. This allows for the committee to develop and promote strategies to incorporate lessons into our everyday lives with the students and staff. Engaging our staff and students in conversations regarding diverse topics will help create a more well-rounded and inclusive space for everyone, and no voice will ever be left unheard.

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