written by Emily Byers, serving on the Henry Wilson Elementary School team generously supported by Dartmouth-Hitchcock
In September, City Year New Hampshire visited the University of NH, Manchester for a training on Ableism, defined as discrimination in favor of able bodied people. A company called EPIC (Empowering People for Inclusive Communities) gave a wonderful presentation. Personally, ableism has had a huge effect in my life. Very late into my high school career, I was diagnosed with a plethora of learning disabilities and challenges. My world flipped upside down. I was placed into special classes. I had an Individualized Education Plan (IEP). Most of my friends ditched me because I was now part of the Special Education (SPED) program at my school. Certain people in my life stopped believing in me. They treated me like a child.
The presentation by EPIC was really quite eye opening as I realized that I’m not the only one who’s experienced these things. I learned about other people’s struggles. I’m more aware of how ableism is affecting others’ lives. The most impactful activity we did was the "Disability Line". Everyone starts off shoulder to shoulder in a straight line. Then, the facilitator asked a handful of questions and, according to our answers, we either stepped forward or backwards. The further back you were from the center line demonstrated how much ableism affects you or has affected you in your life. When we finished the activity, I looked around and saw certain people behind me that I assumed were more able than I am. My mind was blown at how many people are actually affected by this type of discrimination.
It was uncomfortable, it was emotional, it was difficult, and it was sad, but most importantly, it was eye-opening, and extremely informative. I am grateful to have been there and gotten to know my fellow corps members and their daily struggles. My whole mindset has been turned around thanks to EPIC. I could not be more blessed. Thank you CYNH and EPIC for such an amazing training. To learn more about EPIC and their trainings, visit https://www.epicleaders.org.