Bringing awareness to disabilities.

22 Oct

I’m proud to announce that my university, UNC Asheville, is having its very first Disability Awareness Week starting today, which is hosted by UNCA’s Disability Services Office. Even though I wasn’t involved in bringing this event together, I am very honored that my university is making such a positive decision by understanding that we need to bring awareness to disabilities. Even though awareness is something that takes more than just one week dedicated to disabilities, I believe that this is a step in the right direction. Through doing research for my community psychology project on the social stigma of physical disabilities, I’ve found that the stigma persists because of two main thing: a lack of knowledge and simple fear. Though fear seems like a small component, it drives much of the social stigma of physical disabilities since being “different” is purely a cultural construct.

One of my favorite events of UNCA’s Disability Awareness Week is its “Wall of Oppression.” Starting today, there will be a huge poster hung in the student union where people can write some of the hurtful statements they have received, heard or read regarding disabilities. In my opinion, this is such an awesome way to bring awareness to the stigma that’s connected with disabilities. I think it’ll help a lot of people realize that the strongest component behind the stigma is fear. So many people are afraid of what’s “different.” My university has the chance to change that…or at least try.

Along with the “Wall of Oppression,” at the end of this week there will be a fire pit gathering in which the “Wall of Oppression” will be burned in a symbolic act freeing people with disabilities from oppressive words and thoughts. I love this idea so much. Throughout so much of my life, I’ve heard it all. I’ve been teased, laughed at, and avoided…and this week of Disability Awareness Week is acting as a way to inform students that this behavior is not okay. Just because someone is “different” doesn’t mean they should be treated as less than anyone else.

My entire life I’ve tried to find a place where I fit in or belonged, and the fact that the social stigma of disabilities is so prevalent in our society has made fitting in even more difficult. However, over the past few months, I’ve realized that I’ve known my place all along. It’s to advocate for myself and others will disabilities, especially for those who aren’t able to speak for themselves. I strive to make people with disabilities realize that they are not alone and that I understand their pain and how hard it is to put up the daily fight. After all, we are the only ones who can understand what we’ve faced. No one else knows our pain. Through continual advocation of disabilities, I’m helping so much of society who may not know someone with a disability have a glimpse into our world. If that’s not worth as much time as I can give, I don’t know what is.


7 Responses to “Bringing awareness to disabilities.”

  1. photosfromtheloonybin October 22, 2012 at 2:21 pm #

    The “Wall of Oppression” sounds like a wonderful idea. I think a lot of time it is fear like you said, but I also think that sometimes people just don’t understand, and unless we give them the information, they never will understand. My oldest son has Epilepsy, and we always made sure we were very open about it with his friends and teachers, so that they would understand what he went through and what to expect. For instance, the type of seizures he has make him stare off into space for a few minutes, so a teacher might think that he was just not paying attention and get mad at him. So, each year we made sure that there was a plan in place at the school so that all of his teachers were made aware of the situation in case he had a seizure at school. Luckily, he has always had a really good bunch of friends who always looked out for him too. The only time we had a problem was one time at a dance when they were using really fast strobe lights, and Bryan started to have a seizure. He could feel it coming on and left the room, but he was kind of stumbling around and looking funny, and a teacher started dragging him to the office because she thought he was drunk. She just assumed instead of asking questions. Luckily, Bryan’s girlfriend and brother were there to step in! Keep up the fight Amelia. You’re doing a great job :).

    • ameliaclaire92 October 22, 2012 at 2:26 pm #

      I agree that the other side of it is that people just don’t understand. If we can’t shed light on the problem and make the knowledge free for the taking, we’ll never get anywhere.

  2. Julia Dean-Richards October 22, 2012 at 5:20 pm #

    Thought you might like to look at the blog of a group I spend time with.

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