Disability Awareness Month
Welcome to Disability Awareness Month at RCC
April is an exciting time for our office as we celebrate Disability Awareness Month. This year’s theme is Disability Rights Are Human Rights – Accept. Respect. Include.
We serve the RCC community by providing Disability Awareness, Advocacy, and Education. This function promotes the essential goal of Accessibility Services which is to ensure that students with disabilities enjoy all the benefits of and have access to, the programs, opportunities, and activities afforded to all RCC students. This function also serves to promote our mission to educate students of their rights and responsibilities, as well as work to strengthen inclusive attitudes throughout the campus community.
If you are looking to get involved, or just looking to learn more about disability culture, check out our calendar of events!
If you need accommodations for the events, please contact [email protected].
Events and resources are listed below. Keep checking back for more updates!
2023 Disability Awareness Month Events
Real Stories from Students Living with a Disability
Over the years there have been countless successful RCC students who have proven that with a positive attitude and a community of support, you can overcome obstacles. Each story is unique. Our students describe, in their own words, their transformative and supportive experiences at RCC.
2023 Disability Awareness Month
2023 Disability Awareness Month
Shameka Richards (Student Worker)
Celebrities with Disabilities
Joe Biden, President of the United States
A stutter can be an extremely debilitating and frustrating speech disorder, but it hasn’t held Joe Biden back.
U.S President Joe Biden has struggled with stuttering, to various degrees, for his entire life. Stuttering is a speech impediment and neurological disorder that may involve “repetitions (D-d-d-dog), prolongations (Mmmmmmilk), or blocks (an absence of sound),” according to the non-profit National Stuttering Association.
This impediment is a condition with a genetic component to it, and Biden’s uncle stuttered his whole life, according to a January 2020 feature in The Atlantic. As a child, according to that article, Joe Biden largely taught himself how to deal with his stutter:
After trying and failing at speech therapy in kindergarten, Biden waged a personal war on his stutter in his bedroom as a young teen. He’d hold a flashlight to his face in front of his bedroom mirror and recite Yeats and Emerson with attention to rhythm, searching for that elusive control. He still knows the lines by heart: “Meek young men grow up in libraries, believing it their duty to accept the views, which Cicero, which Locke, which Bacon, have given, forgetful that Cicero, Locke, and Bacon were only young men in libraries, when they wrote these books.”
In a February 2020 CNN town hall, Biden disclosed the impediment still affects him from time to time “when I find myself really tired.” He told the audience that the condition “has nothing to do with your intelligence quotient [and] has nothing to do with your intellectual makeup.”
Simone Arianne Biles (born March 14, 1997) is an American artistic gymnast. With a combined total of 30 Olympic and World Championship medals, Biles is the most decorated American gymnast and the world’s third most decorated gymnast. Simone Biles is known widely as the Olympic champion who dominated the sport of gymnastics during the 2016 Rio Olympics. Biles has won four consecutive all around titles and is the first female to do so since the 1970’s. She also has competed and won 14 world championship medals.
At a young age, Biles was diagnosed with Attention Deficient Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD). Confidential medical records were revealed to the public around the time she was competing in the 2016 Olympics. Since being vocal regarding her ADHD, many have classified her as a hero, especially those who have endured stigma from the disability. She has taken to Twitter vocalizing her disability and what she has been doing to treat her ADHD.
No one who has seen Top Gun, Jerry Maguire, The Last Samurai, or Mission Impossible would believe that Tom Cruise struggles with reading. He always seems to deliver his lines flawlessly.
Cruise spent his childhood trying to hide his dyslexia from his peers. Diagnosed at the age of seven, Cruise describes his younger self as a “functional illiterate”. He could barely read in high school or through his earliest roles.
Cruise got his first big acting job at the age of 19. As he started to embrace his love of acting, Cruise realized that his inability to read would hold him back if he didn’t work hard at it.
He eventually adopted L. Ron Hubbard’s learning method of “Study Technology,” which helped him develop his reading and study habits.
“I had to train myself to focus my attention. I became very visual and learned how to create mental images in order to comprehend what I read,” said Cruise.
Cruise refused to let his dyslexia stand in the way of his acting career. To learn more about him, visit IMDB.
Missy ‘Misdemeanor’ Elliott ‘Works it,’ Serves as Role Model for Young Women with Disabilities
At the height of her career, Missy Elliott experienced a dramatic and dangerous weight loss; she was diagnosed with Graves’ disease, which attacks the thyroid. Symptoms can include hair loss, tremors, muscle weakness and bulging of the eyes. As a result, she experienced extreme criticism from both her fans and the media.“I couldn’t write because my nervous system was so bad – I couldn’t even use a pen,” she said.
Elliott disappeared from the limelight for many years after her diagnosis but surprised fans everywhere when she debuted her rap skills once again on a track with singer Katy Perry in 2011.
“I believe in a higher being,” she said. “And that gives me faith to be strong and go on.” Elliott told the media that with proper exercise and diet she learned to manage her disease, after undergoing radiation combined with medication.
Born in Canada, Michael J. Fox is an award-winning television and film actor whose enduring career as a performer has made him an icon to countless fans around the globe. In 1991, at age 29, he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, news he shared with the public in 1998. In 2000, to help advance scientific progress toward a cure for Parkinson’s disease, he established The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research.
Today Michael is as famous for his advocacy as for his acting. Sitting on the Foundation’s Board of Directors and serving as its inspirational leader, Michael travels and speaks frequently on behalf of the organization described by the New York Times as “the most credible voice on Parkinson’s research in the world.” He is admired for his commitment to raising awareness about Parkinson’s disease research, his dedication to scientific freedom, and his appreciation of the need for new strategies to accelerate the translation of research discoveries into practical therapies on pharmacy shelves.
Deafblind Lawyer Haben Girma Advocates for Disability Rights
Haben Girma has been advocating for herself since she attended elementary school in Oakland. She became the first Deafblind person to graduate from law school when she earned her degree from Harvard Law School in 2013. She is a civil rights attorney who advocates for disability rights, a public speaker who travels the country changing people’s perceptions of the disability community in the media and has been featured in Forbes “30 Under 30” and on NBC and NPR.
In 1983, five years before Girma was born, her mother Saba Gebreyesus fled Eritrea, a city in Africa with approximately six million people, taking two weeks to walk to Sudan and sleeping in trees “surrounded by hungry hyenas.” But she was determined to give Girma the opportunities her son wasn’t given; he also was born deafblind.
After her mom settled in California, Girma was born in Oakland in 1988. In elementary school, she learned Braille and later used a Bluetooth keyboard hooked up to a Braille reader to communicate with others. At school, she gained access to the materials she needed to be able to learn. She credits her supportive teachers and classmates, accessible materials such as interpreters and other accommodations, and developed study skills and homework strategies for her success.
Girma stated that removing barriers for herself helped in her journey to becoming a disability advocate.
Girma made the decision to become an advocate for disability rights when she was attending Lewis & Clark College in Portland, Ore. where she was forced to eat whatever food was on her plate. It made her realize she should have choices like everyone else.
Talented Actress, Comedienne and Talk Show Host Lives with Dyslexia
Deloris in Sister Act, Whoopi on The View, Shenzi the Hyena in The Lion King—many of us can connect at least one character in a favorite show or movie with Whoopi Goldberg. Not as many can recognize her as a person with dyslexia. Dyslexia is a general term for disorders that involves difficulty in learning to read or interpret words, letters, and other symbols, but does not affect general intelligence.
Goldberg is recognized widely for her work. She is one of few people to win an Emmy, a Grammy, an Oscar and a Tony award. However, as a child, Goldberg constantly faced negative feedback. People used to think she was lazy or not trying.
Daryl Hannah opens up about her struggle with autism
Daryl Hannah is an American film actress. She is best known for her performances in the films Blade Runner, Splash, Roxanne, Wall Street, Steel Magnolias, and Kill Bill.
The actress revealed she was diagnosed as a child and suffered from “debilitating shyness.” “I wasted so much time scared, self-conscious and insecure,” Hannah reflected.
While doctors wanted her institutionalized, her mother refused and eventually let her move to Los Angeles at 17. There Hannah became a successful actress, though she noted, “I’ve never been comfortable being the center of attention. It’s always freaked me out.”
Even after Hannah found her place in Hollywood, she said she was still “terrified” to tell people, especially producers, about her autism. Now, Hannah is able to manage her symptoms and focuses her energy on environmental activism.
When Judy Heumann was sent home for being a “fire hazard” in elementary school, she realized how unfair the world can be and knew she needed to make a change. She ended up becoming the first wheelchair user to teach in New York City after the board of education initially denied her license. Heumann sued for discrimination when she found out she was only denied because of doubts she could help a student in an emergency or go to the bathroom by herself — she won and went on to teach for three years.
She became the U.S. assistant secretary of education for special education and rehabilitative services after teaching and now works for the State Department as a special advisor for international disability rights.
Howie Mandel: Coping with Symptoms of OCD and ADHD.
Mandel obsesses about germs, so shaking hands and touching are big no-nos. He also has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), making it tough for the 61-year-old to sit still. His mind races with uncontrolled, unwanted thoughts – even when he takes medication.
Howie Mandel’s fist-bumps may be a trademark, but for the “America’s Got Talent” judge, they’re also his way of coping with symptoms of ADHD and OCD. In this Lifescript interview, the famous germaphobe reveals how these mental health disorders shaped him…
Howie Mandel loves his fans – from a distance. That’s because the judge of NBC’s hit show “America’s Got Talent” suffers from obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), a form of anxiety that causes recurring unwanted thoughts and the need to repeat specific actions, usually involving cleaning, counting or checking something.
Mandel obsesses about germs, so shaking hands and touching are big no-nos.
He also has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), making it tough for the 61-year-old to sit still. His mind races with uncontrolled, unwanted thoughts – even when he takes medication.
These mental disorders are no laughing matter for the comedian.
“If I didn’t take my meds, I wouldn’t be here,” he says. “I’d be locked in a room someplace.”
Mandel has even admitted that, years ago, his OCD was so severe that when his kids were sick, he slept in a guest house to avoid germs.
His candor about having OCD and ADHD has made him a celebrity spokesman for both issues. In 2009, he released a best-selling book, Here’s the Deal: Don’t Touch Me (Bantam), on his mental health issues and how they shaped his career.
Justin Timberlake is many things. He’s a singer-songwriter, actor, and entrepreneur. He’s also one of the many adults — and musicians — in the U.S. who have ADHD. Early in his career, Timberlake co-starred on Disney’s All New Mickey Mouse Club with Ryan Gosling, who as a child was diagnosed with ADHD and was bullied before he became a Mouseketeer and movie star.