Feminism and disability advocacy share several parallels: both deal with a population often marginalized, their needs ignored even as society makes strides toward equality in other areas. It’s more crucial than ever to advocate for communities that are often sidelined, and this fall, we would all be better off teaming up, educating ourselves, and celebrating these fall events that honor the strength people with disabilities display daily.
- September: Deaf Awareness Month
Try this exercise — don a pair of noise-canceling headphones and see how long you can go without hearing. Welcome to the world the Deaf experience every day.
Hearing loss that develops over time can lead to adverse health outcomes, and Medicare currently doesn't pay for hearing aids. Research indicates those with hearing loss run higher risks of developing dementia than those not impaired. Deaf Awareness Month wrapped a few days ago, but you can still support the Deaf community by contacting your elected officials and tell them to add hearing aid coverage to Medicare.
- September: Spinal Cord Injury Awareness Month
Research shows every 48 minutes, another person becomes paralyzed. Paralysis involves more than an inability to walk. In some patients, the muscles of the digestive and reproductive tract no longer function. This necessitates the use of feeding tubes and lifelong medical care.
Stem cell therapy offers promise for healing spinal cord damage. You can show your support for those suffering from these debilitating injuries by advocating for further funding for stem cell research.
- September: Muscular Dystrophy Awareness Month
Muscular dystrophy is a genetic disease that causes progressive weakness and loss of muscle mass. Many people with this disease end up using a wheelchair, although experiential learning combined with physical movement can slow the progression and ease symptoms.
Experiential learning bridges the gap between hearing about something and living it. Through experiential learning, patients learn new modalities for treating their illnesses directly versus reading or listening to how to perform certain movements. Once patients learn how to practice certain exercises on their own, they can improve their health independently.
- October: Down Syndrome Awareness Month
Down Syndrome occurs when an error in cell division results in an extra chromosome. Those with the disorder run higher risks of developing Alzheimer's disease and epilepsy.
Some individuals with Down Syndrome lead otherwise straightforward lives, while those with more severe impairment can require lifelong care. Early intervention improves outcomes, so you can support this community by urging schools to increase access to early education programs.
- October: Learning Disabilities Awareness Month
Those with learning disabilities can excel in school — they simply need modifications to reach their true potential. Oftentimes, classroom misbehavior stems from undiagnosed learning disabilities. Students want to do well. They simply struggle to master the material the same way other classmates do.
While schools legally need to provide accommodations for students with learning disabilities, adults in the workforce struggle at times. If you're in a position of authority at work, check for understanding when discussing instructions with employees. If they don't understand, try explaining information differently or use a graphic organizer to aid comprehension.
- October: National Disability Employment Awareness Month
Like women, people with disabilities earn less in the workplace. Many disabled people, especially those with invisible disabilities, suffer frequent job loss due to absenteeism. As a result, they find themselves constantly starting over — at the bottom of the salary ladder. Giving wage stagnation and soaring costs-of-living, this creates economic hardship for many.
Employers can support the disabled community by offering additional time off to those who need to attend regular doctor appointments to manage their diseases. They can provide accommodations like flex time and telecommuting options that assist members of this community to maintain productivity even when driving to the office proves temporarily impossible.
- November: Diabetes Awareness Month
According to a recent CDC report, over 100 million Americans suffer from some form of diabetes. Diabetes results from an inability of the body to process insulin properly, leading to fluctuations in blood sugar. In Type 1 diabetes, the disease stems from genetic factors. Type 2 diabetes results from a gradual resistance to insulin over time.
Diabetes is readily manageable through medication. Recently, tragedy struck when a groom died before his wedding due to switching to less-expensive insulin to treat his diabetes, and he isn’t the only person in America to die due to a lack of this life-saving hormone. The U.S. continues to stand alone among developed nations in not extending health coverage as a right to all citizens. As a result, tens of thousands die needlessly each year. The Democratic presidential candidates are prioritizing health care as an issue in the upcoming election, but there's no telling how many more will suffer before real change occurs.
- November: Epilepsy Awareness Month
Epilepsy is the fourth most common neurological disorder and causes seizures ranging from mild to grand-mal. Epilepsy stems from genetic defects in some. In others, the condition arises as a result of a traumatic brain injury.
To support this population in November, learn the signs of a seizure and how to react. For example, never insert objects into the mouth of someone experiencing a seizure. Simply maintain watch until help arrives, and if vomiting occurs, attempt to roll the person onto their side to prevent suffocation.
- November: National Family Caregivers' Month
Caregivers do so much to help the disabled people under their charge. Many put their career advancement on hold to care for ailing family members. They may move into a loved ones' home, giving up their own. They run themselves ragged transporting the people they love to doctor appointments.
Whether you're disabled and reliant on a caregiver or not, take the time this month to show someone who cares for others appreciation. A small card or gift — or an offer to prep a meal on a busy day — might mean a lot.
Top photo via Unsplash / Jazmin Quaynor
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