[nfbwatlk] FW: [List] Repeated Interaction Is the Best Way to Understand Disabled

Mike Freeman k7uij at panix.com
Sat Jul 13 20:25:53 UTC 2013



From: List [mailto:list-bounces at cfb.ca] On Behalf Of Mary ellen
Sent: Tuesday, July 09, 2013 4:05 PM
To: list at cfb.ca
Subject: [List] Repeated Interaction Is the Best Way to Understand Disabled


Larry Johnson did a good job explaining this issue.


Repeated Interaction Is the Best Way to Understand     Disabled          


by Larry P. Johnson

(Reprinted from "The San Antonio Express-News," April 29, 2013.)


(Editor's Note: Larry P. Johnson is an author, public speaker and advocate
for people with disabilities. Contact him by e-mail at larjo1 at prodigy.net,
or visit his web site at www.mexicobytouch.com.)


Let's pretend that you are blind, deaf or confined to a wheelchair for 30
minutes, or an hour, or even for a whole day.


How would it make you feel? What would you learn about being disabled? Well,
it's limiting. It's frustrating. It's scary. It's certainly not something
you want to have to live with for the rest of your life. Right?


Every year, scores of college campuses, private employers and government
offices, even some elected public officials, participate in what are called
"Disability Simulation Days," in which non-disabled faculty members,
students, employees and city councilmen try to experience disability by
putting on blindfolds, plugging up their ears or riding around in
wheelchairs. Does it work?


By doing it, are they more aware of the talents, abilities, resources and
skills of people with disabilities? Are they more aware of the social
discrimination, chronic high unemployment and general feelings of exclusion
experienced by persons with disabilities because they have participated in a
one-hour disability simulation exercise?


Several years ago, I was in a bicycle accident which resulted in my breaking
my hip and collarbone. During part of my rehabilitation, I had to use a
wheelchair to get around. Being blind and trying to navigate my way around
the rehab center in a wheelchair was extremely challenging. This was no
simulation. It was the real thing.


In my view, disability simulation exercises teach the wrong things. They
emphasize the barriers, the obstacles, the limitations that confront people
with disabilities. Note the phrase "confined to a wheelchair."  It sounds as
though the person using a wheelchair is a prisoner. Yet, in reality, the
wheelchair actually provides him or her the freedom to get around. 


My white cane allows me to travel independently. Cochlear implants and
hearing aids help a person who is hearing-impaired to better understand what
is being said to them.


If you should lose your ability to see, or hear or walk, you can learn
alternative ways to read, to communicate or to travel. You can work, go to
school, get married, have a family. The real pain in having a disability is
society's attitude of exclusion and discrimination.


Disability simulation exercises tend to perpetuate the myths of incompetence
and dependence among persons with disabilities. A better way to build
understanding and acceptance of persons with disabilities is through daily
repeated interactions, serious conversation and a genuine awareness of the
fact that, as human beings, disabled or non-disabled, we are more alike than
we are different.


And that's how I see it.

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