Oct 25

October is Disabilities Month

October is Disabilities Awareness Month

By Luana Fahr


October is Disabilities Awareness Month. Many people suffer from both visible and invisible disabilities. People are not defined by their disabilities, and it is, therefore, very important to be aware of placing the person before the disability in our thoughts and in our language

ADA (American with Disabilities Act) defines a person with a disability as a “person who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activity”. On October 18, 2016, the Academic Development and Support Center hosted a student panel. The student panel chose to self-identify and offered open and thoughtful discussions of their disabilities and the impact they have had on their lives. The panel was formed to bring awareness to the GCU community of not only the challenges, but the positive aspects of living with a disability. Most people will experience at least one disability within their lifetime. We have no idea what a person is going through, especially in terms of invisible disabilities. The students, in particular, wanted to encourage the message of being treated the same as everyone else and that they have developed many important strengths as a result of their disabilities.

Did you know?

  • Around 10% of the world’s population, or 650 million p[people, live with a disability. They are the world’s largest minority and are the most marginalized population.
  • 56 million Americans, or 1-in-5, live with disabilities. Thirty-eight million disabled Americans, or 1-in-10, live with severe disabilities.
  • 30% of astronauts have autism spectrum disorder (ASD)
  • 1 in 45 children, ages 3 through 17, have been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). This is notably higher than the official government estimate of 1 in 68 American children with autism, by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).
  • People with learning disabilities have average to above average intelligence
  • Only 17% of young adults with disabilities inform postsecondary schools about their needs.


Can you match the person listed with his or her disability?

  1. Demi Lovato                                                            a. ALS, or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis
  2. Stephen Hawking                                                     b. Blind
  3. Walt Disney                                                              c. Bipolar Disorder
  4. Vincent Van Gogh                                                    d. Depression
  5. Dan Akroyd                                                               e. Deafness
  6. Cher                                                                          f. Autism
  7. Stevie Wonder                                                          g. Learning Disability
  8. Ludwig Von Beethoven                                             h. Dyslexia

answers: 1-c,2-a,3-g,4-d,5-f,6-h,7-b,8-e

True or False

a. Some disabilities are invisible

b. Words such as wheelchair bound, handicapped, or special needs are acceptable to use.

c. When talking with a person in a wheelchair for more than a few minutes, place yourself at the wheelchair user’s eye level.

d. If a person is deaf, speak to the sign language interpreter sitting next to him or her in order to communicate.

e. It’s okay to ask people with speech problems to repeat what they said if you didn’t understand the first time.

f. Petting or playing with your friend’s service dog will make it feel more comfortable.

g. If you have a disability, you should no longer request accommodations or adjustments in college.

answers: a-T, b-F, c-T, d-F, e-T, f-F, g-F


Helpful Hints when meeting friends with disabilities. ( from Easter Seals)

There is an appropriate and inappropriate way to interact with people with disabilities. For example, the phrase “people with a disability’ is preferred instead of “handicapped person” because the word “handicapped” derives from “cap in hand”, a phrase associated with beggars and begging.

  • It’s okay to offer your help to someone, but don’t just go ahead. Ask first. Or wait for someone to ask you for your help.
  • It’s okay to ask people about their disabilities and it’s okay for them not to talk about it.
  • Remember, just because people use wheelchairs, it doesn’t mean they are sick. Lots of people who use wheelchairs are healthy and strong.
  • It’s okay to ask people who have a speech problem to repeat what they said if you don’t understand the first time.
  • Don’t speak loudly when talking to people with visual impairments. They hear as well as you do.
  • Never pet or play with seeing eye dogs. They can’t be distracted from the job they are doing.
  • Invite friends with disabilities to join you in daily activities and special occasions. Think about ways to make sure they can be involved in the things you do.
  • Don’t park in places reserved for people with disabilities.
  • Treat a person with a disability the way you would like to be treated and you’ll have a friend for life. People with disabilities are entitled to the courtesies that you extend to anyone. This includes their personal privacy. if you don’t generally ask people personal questions, then don’t ask those questions of people with disabilities.


Disability Etiquette ( excerpt by Kathie Snow; visit www.disabilityisnatural.com to see complete article)

Remember: a disability descriptor is simply a medical diagnosis. People First Language respectfully puts the person before the disability. A person with a disability is more like people without disabilities than different.

Say:                                                                      Instead of:

People with disabilities.                                         The handicapped or disabled.

He has a cognitive disability/diagnosis.                  He’s mentally retarded

She has autism (or a diagnosis of)                       She’s autistic.

She has a learning disability                                  She’s learning disabled.

She’s of short stature/ she’s a little person             She’s a dwarf/midget.

He has a mental health condition/diagnosis         He’s emotionally disturbed/mentally ill.

She uses a wheelchair                                          She’s confined to/is wheelchair bound

Children without disabilities                                    Normal or healthy kids

Communicates with his eyes/device/etc.                Is non-verbal

Congenital disability                                               Birth defect

Brain injury                                                             Brain damaged

Accessible parking                                                 Handicapped parking, hotel room, etc.

She needs… or she uses…                                    She has problems with/ has special needs

People we serve                                                    Client, consumer, recipient, etc.


There are many other descriptors that we need to change- Keep thinking!

For more information contact the Academic Development and Support Center located on the lower level of the GCU Library.




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