Fourth graders debut 'Portrait of the whole person' exhibit

Kelly Stroh
DRW intern

Fourth-grade students from Bertschi Elementary in Seattle released their exhibit, "Portrait of the Whole Person" this April, which consists of student-drafted portraits and biographies of adults living with disabilities.  

The electronic version of the exhibit is available for viewing on the Disability Rights Galaxy website.

The Portrait of the Whole Person project provides an integrated approach to teaching youth to: perceive disability as a reflection of societal views of differences; treat people with disabilities with respect and dignity; and understand how disability rights fit into the broader civil rights movement. Additionally, this project contains an anti-bullying and self-confidence component.

Washington recognizes the importance of educating youth about disability history through its enactment of a state law establishing October as Disability History Awareness Month. This Act requires each public school to conduct or promote educational activities that provide instruction, awareness, and understanding of disability history and people with disabilities.

"By educating youth, we can ameliorate negative stereotypes and perceptions that can easily lead to exclusion, bullying, low-self esteem, and discrimination," said Stacie Siebrecht, associate director of legal advocacy at DRW. 

"Perceptions of disability should include concepts of dignity, liberty, autonomy, and strength instead of fear, pity, weakness and paternalism or maternalism," Siebrect said.

Disability Rights Washington, a private non-profit organization protecting the rights of people with disabilities in Washington State, developed the concept and curriculum, taught disability history and culture to the students, and facilitated the art. Bertschi Fourth Grade teachers, Peter James and Robin Cheyney, guided the students in researching and creating biographies about individuals with disabilities, both historic and current. Maria Grade, the Bertschi School art teacher, instructed each child on portraiture and facilitated the presentation of the show.

For more information about this project, please contact Disability Rights Washington at 206-324-1521 ext. 206.

Community living