“During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act.” George Orwell

Saturday, September 26, 2015

"I bring awkwardness to the situation"

A student of mine made a presentation in class this past week. He was relating a Bible passage to the experience of disability. Just in passing, he made a comment that on one level was obvious but on another was really profound. He said that when he meets someone with a disability, "I bring awkwardness to the situation." This is really pretty profound. The person with the disability by themselves is not necessarily awkward in their social interactions with familiar people. The same with my student. However because of how he has been socialized, or because of his preconceived notions, or his unfamiliarity with people with disabilities, when he interacts he brings awkwardness, something that would not be there if he didn't bring it, to the interaction.

That is an important observation as once again, it is reflective of who people unfamiliar with people with disabilities are, it is not reflective of people with disabilities themselves. Now clearly people with disabilities are just people themselves so they may feel awkward in a social situation just like anyone else. But in the context we are considering, one person has a characteristic called impairment, and the other person once again is unfamiliar with that characteristic so they bring awkwardness to the social situation.

The good news is that familiarity with people who are different from yourself, whatever your characteristics are and whatever their characteristics are will lead to a break down of the unfamiliarity leading to awkwardness. So you can change! You don't have to be awkward.

Just remember if you could make the same statement as the title of this post, that is a reflection of who you are, not a reflection of who a person with a disability is.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Many of us have not had the opportunity of interacting with a person with disabilities, and when we do we believe the situation to be awkward. In that believe, we believe the person with the disability brings the awkwardness to the situation, yet, we are the ones bringing awkwardness to the situation.

We do not know how to act or what to say because we are thinking too hard about not trying to say something that will offend the person with the disability or say something that they will not understand because they may be intellectually slow due to their disability.

We bring awkwardness to the situation by not seeing the person with a disability as a person, but as a person with a disability. We fail at first seeing the person; instead our first thought is their disability, leading our behavior to be awkward.

Why is it that at the beginning we cannot see the person without first looking and emphasizing the disability?

The person may already be feeling awkward due to their disability and they do not need someone else coming into their life making their life anymore awkward than what it already may be.

We need to learn that people with disabilities are not defined by their disabilities and should be treated just like any person without a disability would be treated. We also need to but the person first before the disability