Talking about diverse abilities

Valley’s Kate Gibbs says everyone needs to talk about diverse abilities

By Kate Gibbs

Special to the Pioneer

For some people, it can be hard to accept a diverse ability as a positive thing or to see people with diverse abilities as success stories, even if we know that they definitely can be. Look at people like Stephen Hawking, Helen Keller and Rick Hansen; they are great examples of diverse ability success stories.

Lots of people – such as seniors who lived in a different time and those who have not spent a lot of time around people who have diverse abilities – may have developed certain stereotypes about us which may or may not be accurate.

Diverse ability is still not really talked about among groups of people, unless one of the people in the group has a diverse ability themselves, or has someone with a diverse ability in their life.

It is not really a topic of discussion in schools. Sometimes teachers give their students a book about diverse ability to read as part of a novel study, but it’s not an everyday conversation in the classroom.

It’s a unique minority, because it’s usually not one that people want to join. People can relate more to their opposite-sex friends, to their friends of a different race, and to those minority groups that have been around longer. No one wants to think that there are chances that a baby’s lungs could collapse at birth. Later, they might have trouble wrapping their brains around the fact that the baby could grow up to have an incredible life, with some physical challenges.

I do know one thing. The youth of today are AMAZING at advocating for minority groups. They know that a woman should earn as much as a man does for doing the same amount of work. They have just never thought of a woman who cannot walk being able to be successful in the workplace.

A lot of them would be APPALLED to hear their grandparents, or anybody else use the ‘N’ word, but the equivalent word for the diverse ability community – the ‘R’ word: retard – can be a common part of some teens’ conversation. They have learned the history behind these issues, and they know why they are wrong. They have been taught to treat everyone with respect, at least since kindergarten or even preschool. But, when it comes to diverse ability, they do not have an education on some of the issues that we face, or of what we are capable of. The ignorance they have on diverse ability sometimes, through no fault of their own, can stay with them into adulthood.

The media and TV shows using diverse ability as punch lines, or as the sad parts to the stories, do not help either.

Inclusion of people who have diverse abilities has been a relatively new topic of conversation in the past twenty or so years, and we need to keep it going. Everyone needs to be talking about it, whether diverse ability is a part of their lives or not, and it starts with me!

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