[EDEQUITY Disability Dialogue]Opening Statement by Ellen Rubin

From: Ellen Rubin (erubin@aed.org)
Date: Mon Aug 19 2002 - 10:11:17 EDT

For nearly 19 years I have worked for Educational Equity Concepts(EEC),
which is a national not-for-profit organization that promotes bias-free
learning through innovative programs and materials. Founded in 1982, our
mission is to decrease discrimination based on gender, race/ethnicity,
disability and level of family income.

We create practical, hands-on materials and programs for early
childhood and elementary classrooms. We publish resources for women and
girls with disabilities.

Publications I have authored or co-authored at EEC, include Playtime is
Science for Children with Disabilities, a hands-on science program for
children in kindergarten through forth grade;Including All of Us, the first

ever nonsexist, multicultural guide for incorporating the topic of
disability into the ongoing curriculum; Bridging the Gap, a national
directory of services for women and girls with disabilities; Building
Community: A Manual Exploring Issues of Women and Disability; and
"Connecting Gender and Disability." Co-Author. Gender and Disability
Digest. Published by WEEA Equity Resource Center.
In addition, I consult on topics related to access for people with
disabilities for cultural institutions including Lincoln Center for the
Performing Arts, the Wildlife Conservation Society (New York City) as well
as the Association of Science and Technology Centers (Washington DC) to
name a few.

I have a Master's degree in Special Education from Bank Street College of
Education and have taught children and adults with a wide range of
disabilities. I am totally blind.

Has the school system improved in creating a gender equitable
classroom environment that benefits all students?

Girls with disabilities remain at a striking disadvantage in our school
system. Enter any special education program and you can't help noticing
that girls are vastly out numbered by boys. Girls have to have much more
significant disabilities in order to get the services they need. Our
society's standard for achievement are higher for males than for females,
so that traits similar to those commonly assigned to children with learning

disabilities or mild retardation are considered "healthy" for females. If
gender distorts the diagnoses and placement of students, so does
race/ethnicity. Nationwide, African American students are twice as likely
as white students to be placed in special education programs.

On many occasions, I have had calls from mothers of girls with ADD, begging

for information about support groups for their daughters. "My daughter is
the only girl in her class of 12 boys." Even when girls are appropriately
placed their isolation in these classes, the teasing they endure, impacts
negatively on their learning and social development. These girls have few
girl friends, in part because there simply aren't other girls like them in
their classes.

As they struggle to complete their education and make their way in the
world of work, leisure and community life they find they are ill prepared
to meet the challenges.

women with disabilities are more likely to be unemployed, they receive
considerably lower wages than men with disabilities or women without
disabilities, and women with disabilities have not been part of nondisabled
women's increases - in numbers or salaries - in the paid labor force. This
situation deprives the larger society of a multitude of human resources and

In spite of many obstacles and setbacks, women with disabilities have had
the spirit to make changes and to push those issues forward that are
specific to women with disabilities, thereby affecting how women with
disabilities see themselves and are perceived by others, helping women with
disabilities to reclaim their strength, independence, and pride. Disability
rights for women are not about special rights for women. Nor are they only
about health-related needs and services, but are also about the common and
basic human and civil rights to which we are all entitled.

Ellen Rubin,
Coordinator, Disability Programs,Educational Equity Concepts,
New, York, New York

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