Today, I got into a discussion over disabilities. My conversational partner listened to the podcast of the interview I posted a day or so ago and this spurred our conversation. In the interview, I made the point that, even though I often work in the field of disability awareness, I am not, repeat NOT, an expert on disabilities!
Often, when I'm presenting on disability awareness, I'll get questions like, "Um, I know a girl who is in a wheelchair in my class. She sometimes has trouble on the ramp getting into the building. Is it insulting if I ask her to help?"
My answer? How the HE double hockey sticks should I know? Do I appear to be her? Nope! I'm just me! And I certainly cannot answer for anyone else!
As an individual with a disability, I often get categorized with other individuals with disabilities. Fine, but let's not forget that every Asian American is NOT the same as every other Asian American. This is precisely the pidgeon-holing I find so prevelant. It doesn't make sense that anyone would say, "I know a guy who enjoys spicy debate. Bob, Jim, Steve, Fred, you're all guys-you must enjoy spicy debate, too!" Duh!
A friend made an interesting point: It's as if I have a friend wwho is blonde haired and blue eyed. Due to the fact I know this person well, does it make sense I should treat every other blonde haired, blue eyed person like her? No, of course not! So why do we do it with disabilities?"
Whatever the reason, we all do this. Whether it's lack of exposure to other cultures, genders, classes, etc. etc. etc., we all do it-but we should really, really try to treat individuals AS individuals, not the sub-group to which they belong