Himani Hitendra, California Virtual Academies
I was born in Mumbai, India. My family moved to US when I was 4 years old. I live in Fremont, California. I am a seventh-grade student in California Virtual Academies. I like listening to Bollywood songs, reading books, swimming and hiking. I am a non-speaking Autistic. I am an AAC user. I have experienced ableism during my entire time in elementary school. I don’t want my disabled friends to have the same experience. I believe students with disabilities should be given access to the same educational opportunities like our typical peers in order to help us lead meaningful lives. I am proud of typing independently for the first time at the age of 11. It took me a lot of courage to show the world that I am literate, and that I was wrongly diagnosed as having an intellectual disability. I am proud to have shared about my experiences as an autistic non-speaking AAC user, and the challenges I face by giving presentations in my school to my teachers and peers in general education. I have given interviews and spoken about ableism, with my teacher Miss Kate and my mentor Lydia, and shared those videos on YouTube to educate others.
I am sharing the links to the YouTube videos.
I am honored to receive this award from the people who are strong advocates, and leaders of disability rights. They inspire me to not be deterred by ableism, and continue my advocacy for equal student opportunities in the education system. My message to other students who have faced adversity in education: I want other students to know that they are not alone in their fight for disability justice. We have to speak up against ableism, and not be afraid to share our experiences.
ID: Himani, a 12-year-old American girl of Asian Indian descent, with brown skin and black hair is sitting on a chair in her study room. She has her communication device, and a laptop on the desk in front of her. She is wearing a pink dress.