Disability 101: One last column | SummitDaily.com

Disability 101: One last column

by Sandy Lahmann

This is my farewell column, the last Disability 101 which will appear in the Summit Daily News. Disability 101 has been in the Summit Daily for almost three years, and now it’s time for me to move on, giving my time and energy to new endeavors.

With this conclusion, I ask myself if I achieved my purpose with Disability 101. I always intended for my column to be directed toward people who don’t have disabilities because I want to educate them about interacting with people who have disabilities. It was my goal to challenge the able-bodied to come to a new understanding.

A person with a disability is more frequently limited by the attitudes of the able-bodied than any other accessibility factor. Many able-bodied people see a person with a disability and all too often assume this individual can’t do much of anything. The able-bodied person then often exhibits an attitude of pity and rushes in to help, even if help isn’t needed.

It was my goal with Disability 101 to help people understand that individuals with disabilities are dynamic, intelligent, creative, capable people who are able to contribute significantly to a community.

Did I achieve my purpose? One of the things I learned in the last three years is that I can reach some people, but others will never give up their stereotypes and prejudices.

About a year ago, I was involved with another project with a similar purpose for which a survey was conducted to gauge people’s responses. I think those survey results are likely to be reflective of how Disability 101 readers might respond.

With the survey that was completed, I discovered that for 50 percent of the respondents, I was unable to determine if they had learned anything or changed their attitudes. Yep, I think for the majority of Disability 101 readers, I’ll never know.

With the survey, 25 percent of respondents demonstrated that they “got it” – they were understanding what people with disabilities want them to understand. However, 25 percent of the respondents totally missed the point and continued to display the same old stereotypes and prejudices. I think those same percentages would be likely to apply to Disability 101 readers as well.

Over the past three years, some readers continued to display a total lack of understanding and in fact, attacked me for my positions. This group called me angry, bitter and ungrateful for not graciously accepting help that was offered (whether I needed it or not). They chastised me. Apparently I wasn’t behaving as a “good” disabled person is supposed to behave.

I’ve learned that these people aren’t going to change their opinion no matter what I do. I could write Disability 101 for 10 more years and the attitudes of these people would never change.

However, I’ve been contacted by people who would be in the category of the 25 percent who “got it” and I can’t begin to describe my excitement when such a person contacts me and lets me know that what I wrote made a difference for them.

I’ve also been contacted by people with disabilities who have thanked me for giving them a voice and encouraged me to keep writing. Thanks to all of you for your support and I assure you I will keep writing – just in different venues. Please keep touch through my website, http://www.wheelsonthesummit.com, and I’ll keep you updated on my new projects.

A big thank you to the Summit Daily News for taking a chance on a column different from all of the others and giving me a stage with which to share my message.

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