Good Day Class. As always, this is an exciting discussion for this week’s forum. Differently-abled people are just as much a vital piece of society as regular people. In my opinion, differently-abled individuals can enjoy meaningful and long-lasting relationships, just like those outside of their community. Involving them in programs such as volunteer-type events and the use of internet style relationships can boost confidence, give them a sense of responsibility and value, and also the opportunity to make new friends. Now, this does not come without its challenges. In Peggy Hutchison’s article “A Qualitative Study of the Friendships of People with Disabilities,” she states, “volunteer models which tend to reinforce the idea that the person with the handicap only needs one friend and that volunteers, rather than real friends” (Hutchinson, 1990). I believe that this idea of having differently-abled people volunteering could be good and bad. I do see and understand the point that Hutchison brings up, but I still feel that they can even have self-value and self gratitude from volunteering through a meaningful organization. With the Internet avenue of approach, we have been discussing in this class how easy it is to communicate and make friends over the web. It is no different for differently-abled people, given the opportunity and the right tools, they too can browse the web, making connections and possibly more meaningful relationships than if they didn’t have the internet.
While creating friendships with those who are differently-abled, you need to take into account their limitations. These can consist of the environment around you as well as their physical limitations due to their disability. While taking these special considerations into account, you need to think of how their disability will impact what you are planning for them. If they are in a wheelchair, you need to ensure the activity that you will be participating in is wheelchair accessible, and they are able to be with the group and interact as if they are no different. “There were difficulties with wheelchairs in science labs with narrow spaces between the benches and students had to sit at the end of rows or in the front. This reduced opportunities for natural social interaction.” (Ward 2010) Going off of this, if you are trying to include them in a group project, but they cannot get to the table your group is at, they are going to be excluded and have a rough time trying to interact and work on the project with the rest of the group. In the movie, Rory O’Shea Was Here, there are multiple examples of this. Still, I believe the best one is where Rory is invited into a building, except the building has stairs and is inaccessible with a wheelchair. This can often happen at schools that do not have the correct ramps or chair lifts. This furthers the point that there are limitations for differently-abled people, and we as citizens have to respect this fact.
Within my own experience with differently-abled people, I have not had too much interaction with them or their community. I do, however, remember a guy in my graduating class named Shane. We didn’t know precisely why he was the way he was, but that didn’t matter. The majority of the school made it a point to befriend him and allow him the opportunity to have a semi-normal high school experience. It was difficult at times because people did make fun of him, but those people were quickly corrected. I think that this is important to remember because differently-abled people are born with circumstances they can’t avoid, so it is our responsibility to protect them from people who would try and capitalize on their condition.
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Hutchison, P. (1990). “A qualitative study of the friendships of people with disabilities.” Ontario: Ontario Research Council on Leisure. Retrieved from http://docplayer.net/41736962-A-qualitative-study-of-the-friendships-of-people-with-disabilities.html
Ward, A. (2010). “When they don’t have to sit there they don’t. They’ll go and sit somewhere else.” Students with disabilities talk about barriers to friendship. Kairaranga, 11(1), 22-28. Retrieved from https://eric.ed.gov/?id=EJ925403