My name is Mercy Botchway and I was born in Ghana, Africa. I moved to the United States in 2012 and currently attend Everett High School as a senior. I am a black, female, immigrant with moderate to severe bilateral hearing loss, speech disorder, and cognitive neurological disorder. I used to be part of Leaders of Tomorrow, an organization for youth to ‘call in’ the adults in our lives and hold them accountable. I am currently part of Everett Youth Council, a youth-led organization, and I lead a Youth Disability Empowerment Club. I am passionate about disability justice because no person should constantly be seen as or feel inferior to others due to disabilities that they have no control over. When I was in Ghana, I was not tested for disabilities so my parents did not know I had them. I grew up with hearing loss, learned 2 languages by lipreading without cochlear implants or hearing aids. I personally believe that the reason why I was able to be successful without equipment, in early elementary education, was because nobody knew so there was no stigma placed on me. Therefore, I didn’t feel inferior and believed I could do anything. An ableist society has contributed to the inferiority complex I have witnessed in many young individuals with disabilities. From the start, young students with disabilities are separated because the teachers think it is “better for us”. The teachers believe that they cannot give accommodations while in a non- special education classroom because it would distract the able-bodied and able-minded students. Therefore, the separate classrooms for students with disabilities are not for our benefit. I understand if some accommodations need a separate room to be executed but, we should not be separating students with disabilities. The Clarks, who were two Black psychologists, discredited the separate but equal doctrine, with the doll test on black children. Their scientific results revealed that if children are separated due to a part of their identity, and treated differently, an inferiority complex begins to develop. That is why I am passionate about disability justice, so other students with disabilities can feel that they can be anything they want to be. The Heumann- Armstrong Award is important to me because it uplifts students with disabilities, whose dreams of a wonderful career were crushed by mainstream education. It is validation that I am heading in the correct direction for me in fighting ableism. The award is extremely important to me because it is dedicated in the names of two disability rights activists that history might have forgotten in the future. I want other students who have faced adversity in education to be inspired to advocate for the next generation to have a better experience than them.
ID: Mercy, a black girl with braids, wears a yellow shirt as she stands against a pink background.