Sometimes the worst thing about having a disability is that people meet it before they meet you.
A Moment of Reflection
While you flex your muscles in front of your morning mirror and congratulate yourself on your nimble brain, consider this: the light over your mirror was perfected by a deaf man. While your morning radio plays, remember the hunchback who helped invent it.
If you listen to contemporary music, you may hear an artist who is blind. If you prefer classical, you may enjoy a symphony written by a composer who couldn't hear. The President who set an unbeatable American political record could hardly walk. A woman born unable to see, speak or hear stands as a great achiever in American history.
The handicapped can enrich our lives.
Let's enrich theirs.
A message as published in the Wall Street Journal by United Technologies Corporation, Hartford, CT 06101
"How am I supposed to act?"
"Will my differences be tolerated?"
"I don't know if I will be able to take care of him."
"Will I be accepted?"
"Is she super sensitive about her disability?"
"Can I trust her?"
"What will everyone else think?"
These are some of the thoughts that might be going through your mind when you enter your new dorm room and realize that your new roommate has a disability and you don't, or vice versa. This pamphlet is designed to help you and your new roommate deal with disability issues, so that they don't get in the way of a possible life-long friendship.
The important thing to remember is that there are more similarities between the two of you than there are differences, but don't take our word for it. Use the following information to help initiate discussion about the issues relating to an individual's disability, and find out for yourself!
When You Meet A Person With A Disability
- Accept the fact that the disability exists. Not acknowledging a disability is similar to ignoring a person's culture or values.
- Don't assume you are aware of how a disability affects a person, whether it be positive or negative. There are many myths and stereotypes that are easily believed. People with disabilities will not fall apart if you ask a question concerning their disability. In fact, they welcome it.
- Treat a person with a disability as a healthy person. If an individual has a functional limitation, it does not mean the person is sick.
- Don't assume that a lack of response indicates rudeness. In some cases, a person with a disability may seem to react to situations in an unconventional manner or may appear to be ignoring you.
- Offering assistance to anyone is a courtesy. Giving help before it is accepted is rude.
- When talking to a person with a disability, talk directly to the individual, not to the person accompanying him. To ignore a person's presence when you are talking is very belittling and insensitive. When present, no one likes to be discussed as a third person.
- Keep in mind that a person with a disability has many of the same needs, interests and goals as you do. If you look, you will find that you have many things in common.
When You Meet A Person Without A Disability
- It may be to your advantage to take the first step. Many people feel unsure about how much importance to attach to a disability. Should it be ignored or mentioned? You may feel more at ease if you bring up the subject first.
- Answer questions about your disability if you feel comfortable doing so . A lot of discomfort is caused by a lack of knowledge about disabilities. Try to handle curiosity in a non-hostile manner. Hostility only stops communication, and may reinforce negative attitudes about the disabled.
- Be patient with people's limitations. People are often very nervous when they end up saying or doing the .wrong thing.. Try to deal with embarrassing situations with humor and grace.
- Keep communications open during embarrassing or difficult situations . Try to work through problems as opposed to ignoring them.
- If you need assistance, ask for it. Afterwards, be sure to thank the person for their help.
- Be assertive about your rights and needs. People are not mind readers, and many are unaware of the implications of a particular disability. They will be cooperative if you explain what your needs are.