Labels are For Jars

Disability 4 Comments »

Or so I thought. Until I re-entered the public schools after the passage of the Law for Education of Handicapped Children. I was fired up! Now I could manage my resource room without traditional, sometimes offensive, labels. Instead of labeling the children, I would specify the skills they needed and group them accordingly. Good idea.

The first memorandum I received that year asked me to identify my students as to their disabilities, such as learning disabled, mentally retarded, visually impaired, etc. The explanation stated that the labels would determine the type of funding that would be awarded. I also discovered that in working with classroom teachers and other professionals the label was necessary in developing appropriate teaching strategies. So labels are not just for jars; they are essential for delivering necessary services to children with disabilities (another label).

One way society has dealt with the issue of labels is to change them (e.g from “deaf” to “hearing impaired”). A more lasting change, one that should always be used, is called “people first.” Thus, a person with a disability might be referred to as someone with a learning disability, or a child with autism, rather than a learning disabled student or an autistic child.

I recently read an article describing a research study, in which there were two groups, one of which was referred to as “the autistics.” I also heard a nurse call an infant with Down syndrome “a Downs baby.” Such language infers that the disability defines the person rather than describing an attribute of the person. It may sound silly, but I can identify with it. I have diabetes, but don’t call me “a diabetic!” That’s not who I am.

EXPECTATION: Disability Employment Awareness

Community Participation, Inclusion, Independent Living, People with Disabilities 1 Comment »

Did you know? October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month.
Did you know? In this country there are 54 million people with disabilities.

In 1988 Congress designated each October as National Disability Employment Awareness Month. President Obama has issued a similar proclamation, using the occasion to announce several new initiatives.This is an effort to educate the American public about issues related to disability and employment The motto is:

Expectation + Opportunity = Full participation

I am reminded of a recent conversation with a young woman who teaches 7th grade math. Knowing my interest, she told me that she has in her regular classroom a girl who has Down syndrome. During a conference the girl’s mother asked, “What do we need to teach our daughter so she can work at McDonald’s?” The teacher responded indignantly, “She won’t be working at McDonald’s! She is one of my best students and she will have many opportunities.”

Now, that’s expectation.

Check out who we’re talking about:

The newly launched Campaign for Disability Employment has produced a public service announcement that showcases the workplace skills and talents of people with disabilities. View it yourself and help spread the word about this important campaign by clicking here.

Do you have experiences and observations about people with disabilities in the working place? I would love to hear from you.

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