Monday, March 18, 2013


Note: The names I mention are of puppets not people.

There's a reason we have ramps at the sides of the stairs, handicapped parking, special services in schools and at work. They're for people with disabilities (note: DISABILITIES as in not perfectly able people who are just lazy) and it's a federal crime not to have accomadations for these people. The word "disability" can be applied to many different things but mainly, it's used to describe someone who has some sort of impairment that interferes with daily life. 36 million people in America (12%) have some sort of disability according to Obviously, this means that you or someone you know probably has some sort of disability.

Today, I went with my puppet troupe to teach third graders about disabilities. Besides the fact that I get to miss class and receive free volunteer hours, it is a truly fulfilling experience. I am teaching them about another people's way of life and instilling a bit of tolerance into them.

It's so interesting to learn about different disabilities and learn about the different devices that they use. There's almost a different subculture around the whole thing (this is especially true for the deaf/hearing impaired community). It really makes me feel informed.

The two main things that I have learned about people with disabilities is that they are just like everyone else. They aren't freaks; they aren't different; they aren't some sort of cool spectacle to look at. They are people, only they just have one different thing about them but are pretty much normal in every other regard. With help from modern gadgets today, they can even do many of the tasks that normal people can do and without much trouble or assistance whatsoever. 

I also learned exactly how important so many of these social services are in ensuring that people with disabilities get the same treatment as everyone else and this is especially true in the educational system. In the case of Melody and her learning disability, her assistance in school enables her to succeed in school when she would have otherwise been left behind. Without someone to teach him braille, Renaldo would never be able to learn the curriculum other kids learn. With Mandy, the case is also true for her sign language. While opportunities in the educational system are important, they are also important in society too. The changes in public facilities help people like Mark and Renaldo function somewhat independently. Independence, of course, is important for the emotional foundation of these people because, like everyone else, they want to grow up and be able to do whatever anyone else does. Back then, many of these people were condemned at home or to insane asylums despite the fact that they are perfectly functional and even sometimes very intelligent adaults. 

I remember after I got my hip surgery when I was ten (the second; both were a result of hip dysplasia caught too late) and I had to go in a wheelchair. It was a temporary experience but I'll never forget it. I was able to experience the experience of a handicapped person for a little bit and it brought so much insight to me. I was still the same person but I was treated so differently and my life became so different. I realized how important handicapped parking was as it took my mother an incredible effort to push me in my wheelchair and to maneuver the bulky thing. That's why it became so much more frustrating when there was no handicap parking available and she had to walk even further. And that was even in my own school! In addition to that, I learned to appreciate the ramps alongside buildings and began to loathe being near old historical buildings that were "grandfathered in". Then, on top of that, all of the sudden, people felt entitled to butt in front of us when we were too slow or walk around me or stare at me or cluck in pity.

Disability awareness is an incredibly important cause. It is the responsibility of all of us to be informed about it and to be as helpful as we can. Remember, people are people. 

My puppet!

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