The Importance of Disability Awareness and Getting Involved
Why is Disability Awareness Important?
Millions of people with disabilities are likely to spend a lifetime of unemployment and dependency and about 74.6 million people have some type of physical disability in the U.S. Unfortunately, their employment and economic situation has not improved since the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 was signed into law. Our society is filled with prejudice and stereotypes towards disabled people.
Learning about disabilities, the ADA, and taking part in awareness actives and events is a step towards breaking these barriers and promoting change.
What Does Disability Awareness Mean?
Understanding that disability discrimination is unlawful is not enough anymore. A third of people entering the workforce today will become disabled by the time they retire. Disability Awareness means to educate people about disabilities, but also provide them with the knowledge on how to carry out tasks regarding disabilities. People can learn about disability awareness through classes, training courses, or even from disabled people. Learning acceptance is important but employers, businesses, and organizations must also understand compliance with the ADA. Ultimately as an employer, it is important to differentiate between what is good practice and what is not.
How to Promote Disability Awareness?
The first step in promoting disability awareness is education. Unfortunately, there is a preconception in our society regarding disability. Sometimes there is avoidance, fear or discomfort that surrounds it. Some people often wonder what if it were them who was disabled. Disability Awareness Day is on July 16 and Disability Employment Awareness Month is every year in October, while Disability Awareness Week takes place every year during the spring towards the end of May and the beginning of June. These annual awareness dates are set in order to promote disabilities and educate people about them and the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Though it’s a great idea to get involved with awareness activities on these days, you can promote disability awareness year-round. You can organize a disability awareness event on your school’s campus that educates students about disabilities. There are also many organizations and groups worth getting involved with that promote disability awareness. The organization Respectability helps reshape the attitudes of people with disabilities so that there is inclusion for everyone. Several schools also have awareness groups which put on events and educate the student body.
How to Teach Disability Awareness?
More and more educators and trainers are working disability awareness into their teaching curriculums. It’s important that those teaching about disabilities and the laws also understand them. Additionally, parents are also teaching their kids about people with disabilities. How do we make sure we are providing students and children with the right information? The main things we should be teaching them is the importance of inclusion, understanding, and acceptance. Not everyone is the same.
Employers, too, must understand the laws surrounding disabilities. Disability discrimination is unlawful and employers and companies need to understand this. There is a portion of the Americans with Disabilities Act titled “Your Responsibilities as an Employer” which highlights which employment practices are covered under the act, who is protected, and who is covered. Employers can educate themselves by researching and reading this portion of the Americans with Disabilities Act, but also take classes and training regarding it.
Taking the time to research, participate and enrol in courses about disability awareness not only promotes education, but also allows people to share their understanding about disabilities, the laws, and importance of acceptance.
The hardest thing for any parent to hear is that their child has a physical or mental disability. It may come as a complete shock; you may have thought that your child was just a little slower than others their age.
It’s no surprise that you’ll be heartbroken when you find out and that heartbreak will very quickly turn to fear. You will be scared about having to care for someone for many years to come who cannot get around on their own or may have mental disability where they cannot communicate effectively.
After the fear subsides and you realize you are not alone and your talk it out in counseling and with your partner, the guilt and confusion is likely to set in. You wonder if it’s caused by something you did while you were pregnant and you wonder why on earth this has happened to your child.
Talking to other parents who have children with disabilities and joining a support group is the easiest way to deal with the news. These are great places to find out about programs you can enrol your child into and how to care for someone with a disability. You can request reading materials and find out everything you need to know about the disability to help you make an informed decision about what is best for your child.
Whatever your child’s disability is, you need to take one day at a time. Children with physical disabilities can quickly learn how to get around and enjoy themselves as much as a healthy child. A wheelchair or a missing arm will not deter a youngster from trying to do things and if you encourage them to be equal, do things their siblings do and encourage them to be self-sufficient, they will grow up to be able to live fruitful lives.
Enter your disabled child into a program where they can learn new things and experience new adventures. Encourage them as much as possible and avoid pity for them, this is the worst thing you can do. They don’t need your pity they need love and encouragement.
If you feel like crying because you’ve watched your child trying to overcome an obstacle for hours, don’t burst into tears. Encourage them as much as you can and move into another room, let the tears out and return to offer more encouragement.
There are a lot of disability programs available where you child can learn a skill. You may find that they are a computer genius and are able to work technical or mathematical problems out quickly. Enter them into a program where they can learn computer programming or how to fix computers.
There are so many programs available for all sorts of disabilities. If your child is encouraged and believes in himself there is no reason he will not flourish in one of these programs. It may be making baskets and using his hands or being technical and fixing electronics, but with a job to do they feel important and are able to eventually become independent.
The diverse nature of disability and an overview of how different disabilities can impact on a person’s communication, access and participation in the community. Information about disability and impact of different types of impairment, including:
- Physical disability
- Intellectual disability
- Psychiatric disability
- Developmental and learning disability
- Sensory disability
- Presence of disease causing organisms in the body
General principles of appropriate language when referring to, and talking with people with disability including practical exercises in applying appropriate language.
Access considerations for people with different types of impairment, including:
- Physical access and mobility
- Communication barriers
- Attitudinal barriers
- Structural barriers
- Financial barriers
- To gain better understanding of what disability is.
- To identify entrenched myths and misconceptions surrounding disability and people with disability.
- To recognise how these misconceptions translate into everyday language and what respectful communication involves.
- To enable participants to familiarise themselves with possible situations they may encounter with people with disability specific to their workplace.
- To build capacity of participants to engage and deal respectful with people with disability in such situations.
There are more than one billion people with physical and mental disabilities in the world who must overcome challenges every day. One of those challenges is encountering other people. As a society, we are all different and must recognize the importance of acceptance.
Disability awareness is very important when it comes to breaking stereotypes and overcoming preconceptions regarding disabilities. Fortunately, there are many people interested in getting involved with disability awareness and often wonder how they can take part in making a change.
Disability Awareness: 10 Things Parents Should Teach Their Kids about Disabilities
Parents are all over the board when it comes to how they teach their kids about disabilities. Some scold their kids when they ask what’s wrong when a person with a disability passes by, and other parents are totally cool with letting their kids run around and approach us at will. No two parenting techniques are alike.
But there are a few things that are repeated. From telling their child to always look away or giving them a generic viewpoint of people with disabilities, mistakes on how to talk about us are abound. Since even the most well-meaning parent can accidentally flub up, here are 10 ways to help give your kid a leg up on how to think differently about disabilities.
1) Answering “Why can’t they walk”
One of the most common questions kids ask when they see someone who uses a wheelchair is this, “Why can’t they walk?” Kids are naturally curious and have no filter, which are without question one of their best and worst qualities. If your child is younger, saying, “They just have an owie,” can be enough.
If they’re older however, just be honest. “I don’t know, baby, but most likely it’s because their nerves,” is all you need to say. My 6-year-old niece is a great example. She’s still too young to understand the concept of a spinal cord injury, so I just tell her my legs just don’t listen to me anymore, and she understand it completely.
But what’s great is once they fully understand, fear is erased.
2) Don’t get mad when they get curious
While it’s great so many parents want to make sure their kids don’t offend us, which for some kids is a legitimate concern when it comes to sensitive people with disabilities, getting angry with your child when they ask questions about our disability should be avoided. Fear, shame or embarrassment is not what you want your kids to feel in the presence of disability. I hear kids ask their moms about me all the time. Cutest thing ever.
3) Being different isn’t a negative thing
Instead of putting a “sad story” spin on disability whenever they inquire about someone, saying something along the lines of, “But it’s ok.” “The world is full of people who are different,” is vital. We all get around in our own ways. As long as we get there is the important part.
4) Always ask before helping
A lot of well-meaning parents like to teach their kids to help us whenever possible. But it’s just as important to teach them to ask before helping so they can appreciate our autonomy, and respect us as such. Teaching your child to automatically jump to our aid is kind, but it can make it harder for them to see us as a person apart from the chair. Letting them know we can do many things on our own is a huge lesson for kids.
5) Our wheelchairs aren’t oversized strollers
Seeing a wheelchair as our “legs” is another big lesson to drive home. Kids can come up with some hysterical words when referring to a wheelchair – a mini car, a wagon, a “what’s that” (my personal favourite), but don’t let them go on thinking of our wheelchair as a stroller. Kids like to, but driving home the notion of a wheelchair as being an empowering object, not one that symbolizes helplessness, can make a huge impact.
6) Be careful how you react yourself
It’s no secret kids are sponges and instantly sense whatever mom or dad is feeling. Feeling nervous, awkward or afraid around people with disabilities will only make your kids feel exactly the same way. Try to put those feelings aside in the best interest of your kids. Respond positively and calmly when encountering a person with a disability and they’ll do the same (and hopefully into adulthood too).
7) A 10-second stare is ok
When it comes to staring, kids get a “Get of Jail Free” card. At least that’s how I feel about things. As long as it’s not a long drawn out stare that is, which in that case you should tell them, “Looking is ok, but not too long.” I say this because it always saddens my heart whenever I see a parent scold their children for looking at a person with a disability for a brief moment. Kids are shiny new people learning about the world. Their innocent glances are 100 percent ok.