Walking With Wonder & disability empowerment
Posted Aug 14, 2023 by Jacquie Robison
Connecting with volunteers and building community are key to WAWOS. Through a partnership with National Charity League/Skyline Chapter, we met high school senior, Caroline McNinch. Her experience sewing walkercapes to distribute for free to kids who use assistive devices, encouraged her to get more involved in our mission to shift the narrative around physical disability. In this article, Caroline shares how she created an elementary school program to teach kids disability empowerment and allyship.

For the past six years, I have participated in the National Charity League, a mother-daughter service organization that fosters leadership skills and promotes community service in young women. When I first volunteered with WAWOS through NCL, I was deeply impacted by the organization's origin and its mission.

After attending sessions to sew walkercapes, I became inspired to continue working with WAWOS and created a curriculum to workshop with an elementary grade classroom for my senior project. The programming allowed students to engage with WAWOS’ mission by learning about disability empowerment and practicing life skills through sewing. I partnered with The Carey School, an independent day school in San Mateo, to offer a 3-day workshop to their 4th-grade classes. Through research of diversity, equity, and inclusion principles necessary to create a supportive classroom environment, I developed a curriculum that included discussions on ability diversity, the history of ability activism, accessibility activism, and of course, sewing activities to make WAWOS Wear walkercapes. 

The workshop rundown is outlined below: 

DAY 1: A class-wide discussion on the diversity of abilities, and understanding the experience of people with disabilities. Key takeaways were the students’ eagerness to participate and their demonstration of great empathy for others. Each student also created a custom “WAWOS Warrior” Card to go in the pocket of a walker cape. The creativity in their drawings and the thoughtfulness of their messages was really wonderful.

DAY 2: Presentation of videos and discussions about accessibility activism. I was excited that students were able to recognize strengths and weaknesses in accessibility in their communities, and some were able to relate accessibility back to themselves when talking about learning differences and hearing impairments they experience. At this session, each student selected fabric and cut the pattern for a WAWOS walker cape pocket.

DAY 3: This final day consisted of hand-sewing a label onto the walker cape pocket they had previously cut, along with a discussion about disability activism. The students expressed kindness and thought critically about ways we can create a more accessible and inclusive world. It was a terrific experience for me to witness the open, reflective takeaways these students shared, and the tremendous goodwill they were excited to send out into the world. A bonus was receiving the Senior Project Honors Award at my school. As I head off to college, I’ll continue to work with WAWOS and spread their mission of inclusion, disability pride, and accessibility to adventure for kids of all abilities.
This entry was posted in community and tagged #walkercapes #volunteer #disability pride