Undergraduate student McKenzie Templeton is passionate about disability advocacy and awareness. She is also the president and creator of the club ABLE, which stands for Acceptance Begins with Loving Everyone.
She created the ABLE Organization at ETSU in October 2018 when she saw that there was a need for more disability advocacy on campus.
“When I got to ETSU, I wanted to join a club that raised awareness for disabilities – and not just Down Syndrome, but all disabilities,” Templeton said. “That’s when I realized there wasn’t one. Two-hundred forty registered clubs on campus, and there wasn’t one that sought to promote the acceptance and inclusion of individuals of all disabilities – mental and physical. Well, now ETSU has 241 clubs, and we are happy to be behind this change.”
Templeton became involved with disability advocacy in 2015 when she started another organization called Stand Up for Down Syndrome in honor of her younger brother Blake, who has Down Syndrome.
“He is my biggest supporter in life, and he is always there for me,” she said. “Being the big sister, I have always seen myself as his protector, even before my parents told me he had Down Syndrome. I know that the way I treated my brother before I knew and the way I treated him after is the exact same, and that’s the way I wish it was for everyone. That is my ultimate goal in life.”
This semester, ABLE participated in multiple advocacy and inclusion events in the Tri-Cities area. They volunteered at Night to Shine, a prom for people with special needs. They attended Disability Day of Mourning, an event remembering and honoring disabled people who have been harmed by caretakers, and they coordinated an educational booth through ETSU’s Civility Week and participated in World Down Syndrome Day activities.
“Our hope is to start creating more of our own events, increase membership and continue educating students on campus about what disabilities really are,” said Templeton.
In addition to participating in events that promote inclusion, they have fundraised for the National Down Syndrome Society and the Special Olympics. On Monday, April 8, they will be fundraising at the ETSU Farmer’s Market, where they will be selling carnival-themed food and drinks to raise money for Kids Like Us, a local organization that provides life skill and communication development, advocacy, resources and a positive social environment for individuals with disabilities.
In addition to her work at ABLE, Templeton is a Media and Communication major with a concentration in advertising/public relations. She uses her media and communication knowledge to promote ABLE’s activities on social media. She started a campaign called “365 Days of Awareness,” where she creates and shares a monthly calendar featuring disability awareness dates and events.
To keep up with ABLE’s advocacy efforts and fundraisers, you can follow their Instagram account @ableorg. This club meets weekly on Monday nights from 7-7:45 p.m. in room 222 of Ross Hall. All are welcome to join.
“By joining ABLE, students can better understand the disability community,” said Templeton. “We are a bunch of like-minded individuals, both self-advocates and friends, who want to advocate, educate and celebrate all abilities. We are all able.”