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Activists Fight to Advance Success for Students with Disabilities During COVID Crisis

New Tools to Be Released

#ADA30 Summit 2020 Education and Skills for a Better Future Individual Headshots of Gerard Robinson, Ollie Cantos, Sneha Dave, Paul Luelmo and Nicole Homerin smiling, with their names and job titles next to each headshot. Monday, July 27, 2:00 p.m. ET / 11:00 a.m. PT Register Today: ASL interpretation symbol. RespectAbility logoWashington, D.C., July 22 – As more than 6.3 million students in America with disabilities are coping with COVID-19, the national disability nonprofit RespectAbility is hosting experts and self-advocates to mark the 30th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act and to promote greater success for students with disabilities.

“Thus far during the pandemic, distance learning has been a train-wreck for students with disabilities. Much more must be done so that no more harm comes to students with disabilities. This includes both access to real learning and preventing further mental health distress,” said Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi, president of RespectAbility. Mizrahi is dyslexic herself and, as a parent of a child with disabilities, is working to enable her own child to have access to a quality education during this current COVID-19 crisis.

“It’s a nightmare for our family in a great school district,” Mizrahi added. “It is much harder for people in worse school districts and for families without access to internet, devices and other key supports. We could lose a whole generation to the school-to-prison pipeline. That is why we are so proud to be releasing links to resources and tools that can help students with disabilities and their families and teachers.” Those tools will be posted during the session at

Part of a weeklong series of virtual #ADA30 events, RespectAbility’s Education & Skills for a Better Future convening will feature self-advocates with disabilities, special educators and parents of students with disabilities in conversation about the state of special education today and how to ensure that students with disabilities get the skills they need to succeed.

The changing face of America is deeply reflected by students with disabilities. In America’s public schools today, students of color with disabilities constitute a solid majority of the millions of students receiving special education services.

Further, students with disabilities also reflect the deep racial inequalities prevalent throughout the United States. Nationwide, among the class of 2018, only 66 percent of African-American students with disabilities, 77 percent of white students with disabilities, 71 percent of Hispanic students with disabilities and 79 percent of Asian-American students with disabilities completed high school. This compares to 85 percent of all students without disabilities.

Taking place on Monday, July 27, the education panel features the insights and talents of Sneha Dave, founder of the Health Advocacy Summit and recipient of the 2020 Susan Butler Award; Ollie Cantos, a civil rights attorney and father of first blind triplets to become Eagle Scouts; Nicole Homerin, M.Ed., special educator and co-author of RespectAbility’s upcoming Special Education During COVID-19 Toolkit which will be at; and Paul Luelmo, Ph.D., assistant professor of special education at San Diego State University. This panel will be moderated by Gerard Robinson, vice president for education at the Advanced Studies in Culture Foundation.

Even prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, students with disabilities faced significant challenges completing their degrees and succeeding just like anyone else. These challenges were further aggravated by the failure of virtual learning to meet the needs of students with disabilities nationwide. Still, due to underlying medical conditions, many students will need to continue distanced learning, while other students with disabilities will be returning to a “new normal” riddled with virus-related safety concerns in schools.

According to the U.S. Census, more than 55 million people – 1 in 5 Americans – had at least one disability prior to COVID-19. This includes people with physical, sensory, learning, cognitive and other barriers to everyday living. The disability community is growing because of this pandemic, both from people who had the coronavirus and with so many people experiencing mental health challenges.

The entire week’s events are sponsored by Comcast NBCUniversal, the Murray/Reese Foundation, Sony Pictures Entertainment and The Walt Disney Company.

#ADA30 Summit: Monday, July 27 – Friday, July 31
1:00 p.m. ET / 10:00 a.m. PT
All events are free and fully accessible with ASL interpreters and live captions.

Monday: Education & Skills for a Better Future
Tuesday: Ensuring Inclusive Communities
Wednesday: Fighting Stigmas with Hollywood
Thursday: The Future of Work for People with Disabilities
Friday: Leadership: Making a Difference for the Future

Interviews are available with RespectAbility Chairman Steve Bartlett and other speakers. View the full schedule and speakers list and register on our website:

About RespectAbility: RespectAbility is a nonprofit organization that fights stigmas and advances opportunities so people with disabilities can fully participate in all aspects of community.

Media Contact:

Lauren Appelbaum, Vice President, Communications
Email: [email protected]

Meet the Author

Philip Pauli

Philip Kahn-Pauli is the Policy and Practices Director of RespectAbility, a nonprofit organization fighting stigmas and advancing opportunities for people with disabilities. He works with state leaders to develop solutions for youth with disabilities, support job seekers with disabilities and open pathways into the workforce. To reach him, email [email protected]

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