Increasing accessibility to help students with learning disabilities

A Peacemaking Project by Annalee D.

What is the injustice we are solving?

When I was learning to read, erevy stenecne lokoeb like tihs, because I have dyslexia. By third grade, I realized what I saw on the chalkboard was not what others saw. I remember the sound of chalk squeaking across the blackboard as my teacher formed letters. I thought they were words, but I was unsure. The writing ran around the board as if trying to escape; I wanted to escape, too. My long and painful struggle to read, and those who helped along the way, taught me the transformative power of advocacy. I learned, over time, how to be my own advocate, and now my goal is to advocate for others in the struggle against injustice. Back in third grade, my parents were sympathetic but unable to help, so they hired Ms. Becky, a reading specialist. It all began with a lunch. One afternoon, a smiling woman with a Southern accent brought me into an empty classroom. She explained we would spend time together until I became confident with reading. I told her what it was like for me, how alone I felt. I told her how terrified I was of being called on—how I would slouch in my chair and wish to disappear, mumble through the marathon of a paragraph muttering words I hoped sounded like what was on the page. That was the day I learned I am dyslexic. I worked with Ms. Becky every week for three years. It was not easy; I squirmed away, hiding behind the couch to avoid the special homework she would assign. At the end of three difficult years of tutoring, I could sound out letters and form them into words. I remember thinking, “I’m reading!” I thought I would finally be like everyone else. I entered high school excited for a fresh start. Although testing had been done, and I qualified for accommodations, I refused to ask my teachers for help. I did not want to be different. I excelled in homework and projects, presenting my best work and demonstrating understanding, but during tests I froze. Frustration turned to anxiety and hopelessness. I needed a new approach. Another tutor, Amy, helped me accept the unique ways my brain works. We experimented with new study strategies. We role-played so I could practice asking my teachers for the accommodations I had tried to pretend I did not need. I learned how to advocate for myself, preparing for an independent future. As my senior year of high school approached, I felt stronger and more capable than ever at school, but my home, Charlottesville, was under siege. I had been learning about racial justice and allyship through my youth group for years, but suddenly racism that had been hiding was socially acceptable, visible, and marching in my town. Growing up in the church, faith is my foundation, and I have always known that I wanted a role in ending oppression. Now I feel galvanized to be a part of the collaboration and conversation focused on racial justice issues. In August, I was nominated to join the Charlottesville Area Community Foundation’s Youth Design Committee. Our task is to develop programs that will respond to the effects of the violence of August 12th and the hate groups who gathered here, as well as choose a non-profit recipient of a $10,000 grant. I am learning how changes in policy and relationships can help us move towards equity and justice in our community. Dyslexia is sometimes described as a battle—one of many battles worth fighting. The obstacles and setbacks I faced in learning how to read made me understand a number of important lessons. A good advocate can help people accomplish their goals, no matter how impossible the challenge may seem. People accomplish more together than they can alone. I want to be part of this life-changing work, in order to create a more just and equitable world.


Adrian B.
5 April 2018 15:19
Hi Annalee,

We wanted to let you know that we are extending the deadline for active projects to apply for a Mini-Grant during this Peace First Challenge to April 15th. You can apply for a mini-grant anytime, but meeting the Challenge deadlines will make you eligible for additional opportunities.

If you do not require a mini-grant to complete your project, you can remain eligible by completing your project and Reflection before the May 31st deadline! If you submit your project plan by April 15th, we'll be sure to provide you with feedback by April 21st to support you with carrying out the plan.

If you are still in early stages of planning, you are also welcome to apply for a mini-grant at a later date -- although you may not be eligible for some of our larger opportunities, the opportunity for funding and support is always there.

Please let me know if you have any questions, and if we can help in any way!

Adrian B.
29 March 2018 20:31
Hi Annalee,

Just checking in about your project and the next steps. I wanted to make sure you are aware of the upcoming Mini-Grant Deadline - there is still time to remain eligible to attend a Peace First Challenge Accelerator if you complete your Compassionate Insight, Project Plan, and Mini-Grant application by March 31st.

We're excited about your work, and would love to be able to support it with a mini-grant of up to $250.

These tools can help you craft your insight, plan, and budget for your mini-grant:

Through your dashboard you can submit your "compassionate insight," record your plan in "Make a plan" and then "Apply for a mini-grant" for the materials you need.

Let me know how I can help!

Fish S. Peace First Staff
1 March 2018 9:41
Hi Annalee -- thanks for posting this project. I admire your courage in telling your story and your passion for creating more access for young people with learning disabilities. Sounds like you have already been taking on leadership in important ways in your community, and are ready to start your own project and make some waves on this issue you care about. We're here to help! Do you have ideas for the action you want to take, or are you still brainstorming?

I encourage you to check out the story of Imani -- one of our Peace First Fellows, who started a literacy initiative:

Here are some great resources about access, support, and equity for dyslexic students (you may have already seen these!)

I love your idea here: "I am learning how changes in policy and relationships can help us move towards equity and justice in our community." Sounds like this could be an awesome basis for a project that creates access and equity for dyslexic folks in your community!

We are here to help. If you need help thinking about where to go next, we can brainstorm ideas together, or you can use this tool to help you identify solutions you could put into practice.

Once you've decided what you want to do with your project, the next step is to go to your project dashboard and submit your Compassionate Insight. We can't wait to see what you come up with!