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Encouraging Disability Awareness

todayApril 5, 2015 4

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by Emily Parma
Web Content Manager

disability awareness
Photo by wagner.edu

Enough is enough. Here at Texas State there are so many students with disabilities. Some may be visible, some may not be. There has not been a week that went by without me overhearing a joke about ADHD, Helen Keller, or being deaf. What people do not realize is that people around them may in actuality be suffering from those sort of disabilities.

Personally, I am legally blind, and while some people may not realize it, others may make fun of it. Some time last year I remember stumbling over words on the ever popular Cards Against Humanity game when someone remarked, “what, are you blind?” Yes, actually I am to an extent, I remember thinking. I used to shake off those remarks like it did not bother me. In reality, those words hurt – not because of having a disability, but because the attitude that person had about it.

I have to wonder why those remarks are even worth saying, what someone would gain from it.

Having a disability, it seems to me that people either categorize me and others with another disability as being a hero who overcomes it, or a person who is unable to do anything at all. At least that is how I interpret people’s actions and attitudes. This mindset is actually quite harmful.

In our culture today, jokes and sarcasm are everywhere. A person is more likely to be made fun of for not using or understanding sarcasm than they are for using it at all. I tend not to use it because it can be more harmful than good. When someone says harmful words like a blind joke and try to cover it up by saying it is a joke, I know that every joke actually has an element of truth or value to that person who said it.

I would like to think that I am perfectly capable as any other able bodied person in this world, I just have to adapt to my surroundings ways no one else does. Hearing blind jokes makes me feel set apart from everyone else, like having something to deal with in life is something to laugh at. This should not be the case.

Not everyone in life has interacted with someone with a disability, however, so maybe the problem is not the people who say them, but not knowing the jokes are a problem in the first place.

Did you hear about the new Helen Keller Doll? You wind her up and she bumps into the furniture! 
(http://www.jokes4us.com/celebrityjokes/helenkellerjokes.html)

This is not the worst of the most common jokes – Helen Keller – I have heard. I am sure many of you reading this may find that joke funny, but to me, Helen Keller was an incredible woman. She overcame her disabilities despite many people thinking she pathetic and had nothing to live for.

The truth is, every person has something to overcome in life, whether that be financial problems, family problems, or a disability they have to live with their whole life. None of these are a laughing mater, so why make it that way?

No one likes to be seen as different or incapable compared to other people, and this is exactly what joking or teasing does to a person.

Personally, I do not mind talking about my disability, but I do not like people staring or making jokes about it, and neither does anyone else.

I often hear people exclaiming, “wow, I’m blind!’ or “wow, I’m retarted,” when they cannot find an object that happens to be in front of them. More often than not this is not true, and it bothers me because they are not disabled and do not know someone around them may be.

Remember back in middle school when ‘your mom’ jokes were popular? Do you also remember those cringing moments when you heard some kids respond in some way that they did not have a mom? That is similar to the effect blind jokes have on me.

Disabilities range in their causes and effects in a person’s life, but no matter how extensive it effects his or her life, the common element disabled people share is the insecurities we face every day.

All I am getting at here is that people should be more aware of what they say, and remember that age old saying of, “think before you speak,” because what you say does actually matter.

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