Over the past few years, people have undeniably given children with disabilities more opportunities than ever before. Breaking the barrier between children with disabilities and children without disabilities starts with spreading awareness. That is why the Ridgewood Public School District has promoted a disability awareness week to bring attention to a big problem that the entire world, not just Ridgewood, faces; how should children with disabilities be integrated into life with those who don’t have disabilities?
The RHS Unified Sports Club, a club dedicated to engaging in activity with disabled students, has created a setting where kids can be themselves without worrying about what people think of them. The club has inspired BF Middle School to establish its own Unified Sports Club. Parker Wilson, a 9th-grade student who is a member of the RHS Unified Sports Club explains “the kids we play with at events become our friends which means kids are being accepted in all areas of their life.” Parker also states that “normally, kids with disabilities aren’t allowed to participate in sports, and the fact that they are given the opportunity means a lot to them.”
Another local place that has taken steps to promote inclusivity and acceptance in both sports and the arts is Camp Sunshine which is inside of the Ridgewood Duck Pond. At Camp Sunshine, children with and without disabilities play games together, swim in a nearby pool, and play sports such as soccer. This is meant to make children with disabilities feel accepted and not alone, as well as normalize the assimilation of kids with disabilities into everyday activities. It doesn’t take much to make a disabled child’s day; all it takes is “do you want to play with me?” or “come eat lunch with us!” and anybody, no matter how old, can certainly do that. If we instill this message into future generations soon people will no longer be judged by their differences.
Photo: Ridgewood Public Schools