The Deaf Culture and Philosophy Presentation and Workshop on Tuesday got me thinking about my own disability and how people treat others who are different. When people think about those with disabilities they tend to think what they are unable to do. The problem with this frame is that it does not include what they are able to do be it the same or better than a “normal” person. The speaker brought up the concept of deaf-gain which is about what deaf people can do better. Two advantages the speaker brought up were improved spatial memory and improved peripheral vision. This is similar to how blind people can hear sounds others would not.
This brings me to my own disability, High Functioning Autism (HFA.) It is part of a group of conditions called the Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD.) Many with ASD never learn how to talk and have significant intellectual impairment. The common stereotype for autism is a little boy flapping his hands and making unintelligible noises. The core features of ASD are impaired communication abilities and repetitive behavior. HFA and a similar diagnose known as Asperger’s Syndrome are signified by a lack of intellectual impairment but still have communication problems. I can talk but it can be hard to for me start or enter a conversation. I also tend to twitch or move a little more than “normal” people especially in social situations where I am not always comfortable. It also does not help that my disability is not immediately obvious those around me which may make me seem weird or strange.
So what do the deaf and autistic have in common? They both face communication problems and they are both trying to change their images my educating people about the special abilities they can bring to an employer. It the case of ASD the traits include an intense focus and increased attention to detail. The real issue is that people see the disability but not their skills. People need to be educated about people with disabilities and what they can bring to an organization. It is encouraging to see people working to improve the public perception of people with disabilities. The message I got out of the presentation was that diversity is the rule, not the exception.
On another note the summer is drawing fast to a close and for me it is time to say good-bye. Tomorrow my family and I are going to Myrtle Beach for our annual summer getaway. I am ready for a vocation as two months of early mornings and long commutes have left me feeling drained and I need some time to rest. I hope that you have all enjoyed your stay here in DC. I hope that you enjoy your last week in DC and what is left of your summer at home. I wish you the best of luck in your studies and in your careers. May whatever modes of transportation you take deliver you to your destinations safely.
Have a good weekend and a productive final week.