Sometimes it’s hard not to think of the differences between disabled and non-disabled individuals. The physical challenges of accessibility, including access, or lack thereof, to sidewalks and wheelchair ramps are a couple of examples that people without disabilities may take for granted.
It’s difficult to understand how it is to live with an injury if someone doesn’t know anyone living with such a condition. Often, that unknown leads to a separation between the two paradigms. Those two groups may not know how to overcome the social barriers of communication. “There has to be some level of communication, and not just rhetoric – you have to truly listen. You’ve got to truly put yourself in that position and be fully cognizant of what that life may be,” said Gwen Gillenwater, executive director of the disAbility Resource Center.
Gillenwater and others from the disability community met last fall with Daniel Becton of Project Ubuntu. The mission of Project Ubuntu is “to visit, celebrate and support people in one community in every state and Washington, D.C. who embody ‘ubuntu’ through their commitment to service, and to inspire a wide-ranging audience to engage in service themselves.”
Becton mentioned in a recent blog post, “Often ‘we’ may reduce people with disabilities to a homogenous identity that assumes total mental and physical incompetence. We exaggerate the challenges of people with disabilities and we only “deal with them” as much as we have to.”
Becton’s travels have allowed him to share with the rest of the world that people with disabilities are as capable as anyone else. Our society can “transcend the ‘us vs. them’ structure of people with and without disabilities by seeing the person first,” Becton said. “Instead of pitying or avoiding someone with a disability, one ought to seek to learn about another person’s background, interests, skills, ambitions and challenges,” he added.
Societal attitudes have changed over the years since the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990. However, I believe we can strive to become even more united. Let’s pledge to become one nation that’s indivisible while creating justice for all.
To read Becton’s blog, visit http://projectubuntu.info/2013/02/11/week-14-south-carolina/.