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Teaching disability etiquette

Hundreds of people lived a day with an impairment as part of an awareness campaign, organized by an IB Diploma Programme (DP) student

As a tribute to his late father, who had advanced multiple sclerosis, DP student Griffen Saul, organized a city-wide ‘We Are Able’ campaign to increase empathy and “help create a society where disability etiquette isn’t just the exception, but the norm.”

Around 300 students across Chicago lived a day with a disability such as deafness, the inability to speak, visual impairments and various physical difficulties. They then shared their experiences, discussing the difference between feeling empathy and offering sympathy on Griffen’s We Are Able website – a non-profit organization he created to empower youths with disabilities and their families.

Griffen, from Lincoln Park High School, Chicago, US, explains: “The idea for the campaign began shortly after my father passed away in December 2015. Upon reflection, I realized that I had to do something meaningful to carry on his legacy. During my father’s experience, I witnessed people’s inability and lack of knowledge in properly communicating and interacting with someone with disabilities.

“Initially, the idea was to just have students understand what it was like to have a disability; it was something I had talked about with my dad, and he always believed it was important to expand people’s empathy.”

The campaign grew into a city-wide campaign after the Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities in Chicago suggested Griffen implement an educational component, such as teaching students correct disability etiquette.

Griffen now hopes ‘We Are Able’ goes global. “I feel that it is a great programme for IB students to engage with to expand their empathy for others,” he says. “In addition, I envision ‘We Are Able’ growing into a movement that expands to more than just people with disabilities, but to all people.”

This project was not a Creativity Activity Service (CAS) initiative, however Griffen says the IB Learner Profile helped him become open-minded to new opinions and knowledgeable about the issue of disability etiquette; take risks; and care for others.

“The largest challenge I faced was learning to manage all of my IB course work with this campaign. I surprised myself through my resilience and my undying motivation to continue my efforts, even when things became increasingly difficult.”


This article is part of a series of stories from IB World magazine that bring to life the wonderful initiatives undertaken by IB students and educators from around the globe. Follow these stories on Twitter @IBorganization #IBcommunitystories. Share your great stories and experiences: email