Posted on January 27, 2022
By Taylor Delaney, Class of ‘22 MA Candidate, UNCG, Women’s Gender, and Sexuality Studies
Abby Thomas Salah is an activist in the Greensboro community for adults with disabilities. Her journey to this point has had many surprises. When she graduated from high school, she did not initially have the desire to go to college. Her dad nudged her, though, and she attended the University of North Carolina at Greensboro where she began to work closely with the Speaking Center there and its outreach programs. She was involved in “Let’s Talk,” “Calling In,” and “Let’s Communicate” programs, and she became a volunteer at Peacehaven, a nonprofit residential farm assisting adults with disabilities. While her involvement with the variety of communication programs was important, her greatest reward came from working with adults with disabilities. She sees how much remains to be done for adults with disabilities and she has been finding ways to be involved in that work ever since.
Abby explains that “Let’s Talk” is a community tutoring program for international students. In this space Abby ran weekly English-speaking practice programs for a year to help international students become fluent through practice with one another.
“Calling In” is another program hosted by the UNCG Speaking Center that assisted middle school students in the seventh and eighth grades at the Experiential School of Greensboro to invite one another in to have conversations rather than calling students out and hurting one another. After teaching youth these skills, the students, volunteers and teachers at the school participated in mock scenarios.
Abby spent nearly five years at Peacehaven where she found her passion. The live-in community for adults with disabilities is a working farm for four individuals. There, they learn how to live with others and as they do, they learn vital communication competencies. For example, residents learn the value of boundaries and respecting the personal space of others, how to tend to and communicate basic needs, and how to live peacefully among others.
The “Let’s Communicate” program, Abby’s “baby” as she puts it, focused on job development skills for adults with disabilities. Twelve participants, the maximum, met weekly at the Bryan Business School on UNCG’s campus. Following a check in with one another, participants would learn communication skills using the “soften technique,” basic skills in communication such as nodding, smiling, and leaning in appropriately when listening.
Abby is currently in a graduate program in Communication Studies at UNCG building on the work she has previously done with the Speaking Center. Her goal is to open a non-profit serving adults with disabilities to extend the work she did at Peacehaven. Abby’s vision is to teach adults job-readiness communication competencies to improve the rate of employment for adults with disabilities and reduce the stigma surrounding disabilities that persists.