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Training could have prevented disabled girl’s death

Whether a caregiver is watching the person entrusted to them or looking at their phone could be the difference between life and death. (Nicole Luna/YJI)

Albany, Oregon, U.S.A. – Heartbroken. Speechless. Realization of dangers you risk just to live.
I came to terms with the fact that I could die a long time ago.
But every time that I see in the news, another disabled person’s death at the hands of a caregiver, the overwhelming feelings all come rushing back.
A 6-year-old wheelchair user died this summer on a school bus in New Jersey, choked by the harness that secured her in the chair, according to NBC news reports.
She was nonverbal and disabled.
Her name was Fajr (Fah-Jer) Atiya Williams.
The school bus monitor – who strapped her in and is now facing criminal charges – was not paying attention and had headphones on.
Fajr was only six years old.
Fajr’s brain was deprived of oxygen for approximately 40 minutes before she died.
This can happen to any disabled person.
Knowing that it is out of your hands is terrifying.
This is exactly why advocacy matters!
School bus monitors need to be properly educated and trained in working with the disabled and nursing and caregiver agencies need better vetting processes.
Everyone has a voice. Some just communicate differently.
Awareness of this problem needs to be raised and policies improved.
Advocacy can prevent more trauma from happening, even if it’s only for one person.
Fajr’s mother has been a major advocate by raising awareness and advocating for legislation named “Fajr’s Law” to prevent this from happening to any more people.
This could have happened to your friend, brother, sister, cousin, nephew or niece and to be honest, it could happen to any disabled person.
If you have a disabled relative or friend, which you probably do, let this be your reminder that disabled people can be proud of their disability but the world was made in the vision of able-bodied people.
Disability comes with risk, but advocacy can change that.
McKenzie Andersen is a Reporter with Youth Journalism International. She wrote this commentary.
Nicole Luna is a Senior Illustrator and Senior Reporter with Youth Journalism International. She made the illustration.

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