disABILITY Awareness – And How We Can Help.
According to pewresearch.org, more than 40 million people in America live with a form of a disability. The US Census Bureau defines disability status through a series of surveys and questions. The survey asks the individual about hearing, vision, cognition, walking or climbing stairs, or difficulty with self-care or independent living. Other surveys are known to have a much higher number for those living with a form of a disability. The main factors that can lead to disabilities are connected to geographical location, ethnicity, and race.
So, why am I discussing disabilities? Well, in our college course, we are talking about workplace environment and what we can do to encourage everyone, even those who may be limited or restricted by a disability. Instead, we should focus on their Abilities as a coworker and colleague and should always be knowledgeable about what we can do to help in any way or form to make their work environment as ideal as possible for them. Many people know somebody who is directly impacted by a distant friend or family member who has some form of disability.
In class, we did a hands-on experience to help us understand how people with a disability might feel while doing certain activities. The objective was to open our eyes to how somebody might feel if they are limited while doing a certain task, and to get an idea at how it might be if we experienced these ourselves.
The activities we did were as follows:
1) A learning disability. This first activity involved reading a few paragraphs where the letters of the words were frequently mixed around or misspelled. It was one of the more difficult activities.
2) Cerebral Palsy (CP). For this activity, we put a winter glove on our weak hand (right hand for me) and cut out two circles from a sheet of paper. It was quite hard to get a cut I could be satisfied with.
3) Spinal Cord Injury. For this activity, used a wheelchair to roll ourselves out of the classroom, down the hall, used the drinking fountain, and come back to the classroom. The wheelchair was quite difficult to use as I had never used one before. It was very difficult to steer.
4) Visual Impairment. For this activity, we put on goggles that really fogged our vision. While it was not impossible to see through them, it was very foggy.
5) Communication Impairment. For this activity we placed ear protector muffs over our ears and tried to hold a normal conversation. It was quite difficult to talk to each other and understand our conversation
6) Rheumatoid Arthritis. This activity involved using gloves to tie our shoes. It was quite difficult and took a lot of concentration and focus.
7) Schizophrenia. This activity involved reading a book while having earbuds in. The earbuds played a track of people whispering in the background. It was quite distracting and disturbing at the same time.
It is very important to be aware of what people living with disabilities may experience every day of their lives, but it is more important to focus on what the person CAN do. It is important to encourage them and help in whatever way is possible. It is important to look past the disability and see the Ability. I hope to be even more understanding of other people who may be different than me and realize that everybody has their own challenge and see what I can do to help when the time arises, whether in personal life or a workplace setting.