Policy: Advocate Shawn Aleong's Testimony before House Committee

August 2020

This week in "Pinch of Policy" we are joined by guest writer Shawn Aleong. Shawn is a tireless self-advocate and activist. He is a member of the Institute on Disabilities self-advocate policy subcommittee. He is also a fully matriculated Temple student with his eye on a career in law. On July 23, 2020, Shawn joined others in the disability rights movement, along with representatives of the School District of Philadelphia, Millersville University, and others to provide testimony before the [Pennsylvania] House Democratic Policy Committee. The Policy Committee was holding a hearing to address the need for inclusive education. The hearing was held in conjunction with Virtual Disability Pride PA 2020.

On July 23rd, 2020, Pennsylvania House Bill 2785, also known as the Disability Inclusiveness Curriculum Act, was presented to members of the Democratic Caucus and the public. It was introduced into the House and referred to the Education Committee, where it now resides.

Testimony of Shawn Aleong, July 23, 2020

Representative Hohenstein and members of the Democratic Policy Caucus, thank you for the opportunity to speak to you today about the importance of disability history education in schools. I am honored to be here to participate in this Hearing as part of Virtual Disability Pride PA 2020.

My name is Shawn Aleong. I am a disability rights activist and advocate, and a proud member of both the disability community and the African American Community. I am a graduate of Temple Institute on Disabilities Leadership and Career Studies program, and I am currently a fully matriculated student at Temple University.

I support the Disability Inclusiveness curriculum because my own personal experience as a young, African American male with a disability. A disability inclusiveness curriculum is important in all of our Pennsylvania schools because:

  • As a young person in school, I was often bullied because of my disability. Kids with disabilities should not have to face this. I believe that if other kids were exposed to disability and taught about disability, bullying would be reduced.
  • Even today, 30 years after passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act, our society still views people with disabilities as 'different'. A main reason that disability is not part of the mainstream is that disability is not part of our standard education curriculum, we are not taught about important pieces of disability history such as 'the Capitol Crawl' or the significance of July 26, 1990.
  • The Bill being proposed here includes a pilot program for schools and a specific disability curriculum. This is important because it is a step toward making our schools more inclusive.
  • Finally, I want to share something about the intersection between race and disability. As a member of the African American Community, I want to share that there is still a stigma around being a person of color with a disability. We as people of color with disabilities are 'labeled' and often discriminated against just because we look or sound different. This needs to stop, and this Bill will go a long way toward eliminating stigma and discrimination.

I thank you again for the opportunity to testify today, and I want to leave you with a quote from Thurgood Marshall. In recognizing that we are all human beings, Justice Marshall said, "in recognizing the humanity of our fellow beings, we pay ourselves the highest tribute."

For more information on this hearing and inclusive education, you can visit the PA House Policy Committee webpage.

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