Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Overcoming Common Misconceptions

It is my opinion that society needs to change in order for individuals living with disabilities to be able to succeed. This however, does not mean that these individuals cannot succeed in their community through their own individual effort but rather it means that by eliminating the stereotypes and opposition that have been put in place by society, we can help the disabled to reach their full potential. As valued members of our communities, it should be our responsibility to include and allow the participation of individuals with disabilities.

For starters, our first step to better understanding individuals living with a disability is to educate ourselves. Being uninformed can cause us to create stereotypes and segregate these individuals. Even if we do not personally know anyone who is living with a disability there are so many different ways in which we can educate ourselves. The internet is probably the easiest way as there are articles, books and videos that one can read or watch in order to become more informed.

The American Disabilities Act has over the years taken the necessary steps in order to improve accessibility in buildings, increasing access to education, opening employment opportunities, and developing realistic portrayals of individuals livings with disabilities in television shows and movies. However, there is still more work that needs to be done in terms of our communication and interaction with the disabled community. Our lack of knowledge causes us to fear that we might say the wrong thing and as a result we choose to say nothing at all. This however, is not the solution because our silence further segregates individuals with disabilities.

It is a common misconception that when interacting with someone with a learning disability they should be treated like a child. However, this is incorrect because we should treat adults as adults. It is important to address people with disabilities by their first name only when you would extend the same familiarity to others.

There are even several misconception when dealing with individuals with physical disabilities. Some proper etiquette when communicating with people with disabilities is that: It is appropriate when introduced to a person with a disability to offer to shake hands. Even people who have limited use of their hand(s) or who wear an artificial limb can usually shake hands and often it is an acceptable greeting to shake hands with the left hand.

Therefore, the only way we can empower ourselves and become more knowledgeable about the correct etiquette is to utilize the resources that are now readily and easily available to us through online media (which only one of the many forms of information) as we no longer have a reason to remain in dark.

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