Supporting those with disabilities is easy, and anyone can do it. One has to understand the perspective and problems of those with disabilities first. A disability can be physical, mental or sensory barriers to learning or accomplishing tasks. This qualifies the individual for accommodations. A person with a disability then enrolls in “special educational services or programs” according to educational courses at Lumen Learning.
It is important to support those with disabilities because everyone has something to say or contribute to society. We can’t neglect those who may make a difference the most, namely because they are able but do things differently. This in itself should change the way we view the word “disability.” Services and accommodations are the main ways we can help as a society, but understanding and outreach are another. We must support people with disability and sensory impairment.
There are many types of disabilities. For example, hearing loss and visual impairments are disabilities that an individual may face.
There’s a difference between hearing impaired, hard of hearing and deafness. For the former, the individual has not lost his or her hearing totally, and for the latter, hearing is totally gone. While the cause of such an impairment can vary, services focus more on developing accommodations as the cause does not influence the treatment for any type of hearing loss.
For those with little hearing loss, a learning disability may be misdiagnosed. Struggles in school may even seem disciplinary related and not hearing associated.
For those who may have a learning disability, there is something called Auditory Processing Disorder which is altogether different. It’s when the brain doesn’t register auditory information either well or at an appropriate pace because the brain and ears are at odds. To learn more about the difference, click here
How can we support those with hearing impairments?
- Testing for a hearing impairment isn’t always straightforward. It’s not always easy to discover either. Be sensitive to the process and progress a person makes.
- Understand social isolation may occur due to communication struggles, and empathy is a skill anyone can give.
- Lip reading can be a skill, but not everyone can rely on it. Don’t assume they can simply read your lips. Also, struggle may be missed by those around someone who can lip read. It’s not an indicator that the problem has been solved.
- A person can mislead others by looking at context and clues when they are struggling to hear. Stigma may be a cause for this to continue rather than that person seeking help. Your openness and acceptance could make a difference.
- Hearing loss can be experienced differently for everyone. It can be either sounds aren’t loud or not clear enough according to Healthy Hearing.
- ALDS or Assisted Listening Devices can be helpful for the person. Hearing aids, if needed, should be encouraged rather than stigmatized.
- The Americans with Disabilities Act requires jobs to provide accommodations. If that person is afraid about his or her gaining employment, tell them this: Be an advocate for the ADA in general and become more educated on it.
- Awareness and education about the world may be stifled due to communication struggles and hearing impairment. Patience and persistence is what is needed to be a good ally.
- The basics of ASL are a good place to start, but learning it in general is beneficial for everyone.
According to Lumen Learning, visual impairments and blindness can be categorized as follows:
- Refraction- Blurred Vision
- Tunnel Vision- Loss of vision
- Sensitivity to Light
- Legal Blindness, visual acuity of 20/200 or less
- Low Vision- reads with magnifying lens
How can we support those with visual impairments?
- Watch for the signs. If someone is reading really closely, squinting, frequently blinking to make sense of what they see etc. can be signs of a visual impairment.
- Be aware, their symptoms may be rooted in another cause like a disease for example. Pay attention to all physical actions if out of the ordinary.
- Physical distance makes a difference. Placement of the individual matters in respect to what they are trying to read.
- Braille or other types of communication of information is necessary.
- Be aware of the ADA and accommodations.
Other types of disabilities
There are two types of disabilities, physical and invisible. An example of a physical disability is a hearing impairment where it affects the physical body. An invisible disability affects more the mind. It can be a mental health issue or a learning disabilities. However, there are similarities to how to help anyone with a disability.
I struggled with math my whole life; my brain flip flopped numbers around almost like dyslexia. I would be counting money and go from $230 to $300 in the next second of counting. Something was wrong. It was the 3 that flipped in my mind. I would forget where I was and have to start over. I went through life able to retain math formulas short term; however, I could no longer do it in college. It took years later as an adult to get testing to learn I had dyscalculia, a math learning disability.
And I didn’t get the help I needed until I realized stigma of a learning disability would not define me nor my intelligence. This is an example of an invisible disability.
Don’t assume someone isn’t intelligent just because they struggle at a skill which comes naturally to you. I learned that I needed extra assistance when doing math, and that I just barely got good grades when I was in school.
Here’s what I needed and how this can apply to anyone:
- A teacher once said to me in math class “You actually have to think in this class, Sarah.” No mention of learning disability ever came up on both sides.
- Shaming others for their struggles keep things undiagnosed, undiscovered. Assuming stupidity is the worst thing you could.
- Let someone go their own pace.
- Don’t overwhelm them with advocacy. If you want to help them, ask how they would like to be helped.
- Use your voice if you see something wrong. Do you know how many teachers I had that didn’t catch this? In first grade, I cried when I couldn’t get a math problem right. They assumed I was being dramatic, but it was really that overwhelming.
Why anyone can support someone with a disability
When one is included, he or she feels empowered. Much of this is about stigma and seeking real help for one’s needs. If supported by others, by advocates, with accommodations if necessary, anything is possible. Anything can be achieved. Anything can be done.
Anyone can help by being there. Recognize the signs, fight the stigma and gain accommodations as well as awareness as how to best communicate with the person in need.
Resources for those with disabilities
Here is a list of sites compiled to assist anyone with a disability including the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act)
To contact the ADA with any questions about any person with a disability and his or her rights, go here.PreviousNext »