Eliza Riley - Advocate | Not in Our Town

Eliza Riley - Advocate

Grade Level: 
Middle School (6-8)
High School (9-12)


On the anniversary of the American Disabilities Act, a group of disability rights advocates march in solidarity to assert their rights as Americans and human beings. Many are here because of the work of Eliza Riley, a disability rights advocate in Silicon Valley, who has developed a youth leadership program for people with disabilities.
Diagnosed with cerebral palsy, Eliza lived the life of a normal American teen until she was confronted by a peer with a derogatory term. The pain she felt stayed with her and empowered her to advocate on behalf of others with disabilities.
Loud & Proud—their motto—has carried Eliza and her fellow advocates to remain visible and influential. Through her youth leadership program, Eliza has given a sense of identity, community, and strength to a new generation of people with disabilities, and has witnessed many of them develop into successful, happy, visible, and productive members of society.
This lesson addresses the following SEL strategies. You can have students look for these issues and examine them in themselves.
Self-Management: Eliza explains how she came to stand up for herself
Social Awareness: Eliza talks about and models being an advocate and activist for people with disabilities
Self-Awareness: Eliza discusses her identity and how she approaches life
1.  Prior to showing the video, briefly explain the primary themes of the video. Use some or all of the following questions (include at least one writing prompt): 
  • Have you, or anyone you know, ever been called names because of having a disability? How did you, or the person you know, react? Describe any thoughts or feelings you had at the time, or thoughts and feelings that you think someone else might have if they were called names or bullied. 
  • What does the term “advocate” mean to you? Is anybody capable of being an advocate and why?
  • Describe what you believe the term “identity” means to you. Now think of five words that you would say are part of your identity. How many of you share similar words to describe yourselves?
  • What do you know about the Americans with Disability Act? Add to the KWL chart 
2.  After watching the video, engage students in a dialogue about the film using some or all of the following questions (include at least one writing prompt):  
  • What are some of the problems Eliza faces as a disability advocate? What are some problems you face in your school or life and how can you become a “voice of change, a voice of reason” in fighting these problems?
  • As a class, explain why Eliza is considered an advocate. Now think of another person, it could be someone you know personally or someone you’ve heard of that you would consider an advocate. Describe why you consider them an advocate.
  • Eliza teaches poetry as a way of combating stereotypes. Think of another creative way that you can combat discrimination, bullying, stereotypes, etc. in your own school or community.
  • Complete the KWL chart about Cerebral Palsy and the Americans with Disabilities Act. Do research to add to what you learned in the film.


Extension Activities
1. Have students read famous poems that combat stereotypes and discrimination, such as Sojourner Truth’s “Ain’t I A Woman” and Maya Angelou’s “Still I Rise.” Then have students write their own poems to combat stereotyping and discrimination.
2. Assign a research project: Learn about different disabilities including physical, mental, and learning disabilities. Also have students find examples of role models of people with the different disabilities. Have the students do interviews or find first person narratives that describe experiences of people with different disabilities. Students can create a reader’s theatre reading from the different narratives.
3. Assign a research project to learn about the disability awareness movement.  Find out about Ed Roberts and other leaders.
4. Research: Eliza focused her efforts to improve employment opportunities. Have students write an opinion piece on ways to improve employment opportunities for people with disabilities.
This lesson plan was written by Geraldine Divina and Becki Cohn-Vargas

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