Alex Bacon/The AS Review
During Disability Awareness Week, one of the events that was held was A Disability Experience. On Monday, April 12 around 11 a.m., I walked into the VU Multipurpose room and headed for two people sitting on the floor. I signed the waiver they handed me and then they held up a hat so I could randomly select the disability I would take on for the day. I paused for a second, because I had thought I could just say, “Hey, I want to be on crutches.” But then I realized how appropriate the drawing really is. In life, you can’t choose what disability you may end up with.
I stuck my hand in and drew my disability for the day: limited hand movement. My fingers were taped together in pairs on each hand, although my thumbs were left with their full motion. Okay, I thought to myself, this won’t be that bad.
I headed to the registrar’s office to fill out some paperwork. It took me a few minutes to figure out how to write with my taped hands. Once I was finished with the paperwork, I looked over my handwriting. I’ve never had amazing handwriting, but the writing on that paper didn’t even look legible.
Next I went to the Viking Commons for lunch. My Western card was in my pocket and I had to fish it out. It wasn’t as easy as it usually is. By the end of the day, I hated the pockets on my pants.
I went in to lunch and went about my usual routine. I found a seat, put my things down and went to get food. The nachos looked edible, so I grabbed a bowl and headed to the soda fountain. I picked up a cup and went to push the button with my index finger on the same hand holding the cup. But I couldn’t. I thought, “Oh bother. Oh well. No big deal.” I used the other hand and returned to my table.
Nachos are finger food. When your fingers don’t bend well, trying to eat finger food without getting it everywhere is a challenge.
After lunch, I went down to the Publicity Center for work. Usually, I get online and check my e-mail, draft outlines for stories or write questions for upcoming interviews. It took me most of the hour just to check my e-mail and respond to four messages. It’s very difficult to type when you have limited hand motion. I was so frustrated with how long everything took to do.
While I was at work, the tape holding my fingers together came loose, so I found some more tape to fix the problem. However, this presented another problem. I couldn’t get the tape off the roll and wrap it around my own fingers. I had to ask a co-worker for help. I’m a do-it-all-myself type of person, so having to ask for help was difficult for me.
Next, I went to class. I was so glad that the class was more discussion than anything; not having to try to take notes was a relief.
After class, I met up with my friend for our weekly chat. Naturally, she asked what I had done to my hands.
Throughout the day, other people I had talked to asked what I had done. It was a great opportunity to explain to them that I was participating in a disability experience for Disability Awareness Week. It was a door to open conversation about disabilities. They asked what had challenged me and why I chose to participate in the experience. We talked for a while about stereotypes and challenges I was facing, or had expected to face.
Next, I had a short group meeting for a class and then I went off to the Student Tech Center for training in the Dreamweaver program. Once again, I faced the computer. Trying to learn a new program is hard enough when I have full use of my hands. When I added limited hand movement into the mix, I was half distracted the whole time by my frustration with my hands.
After the Dreamweaver class, I finally went. I could not wait to finally take the tape off my hands. I was so frustrated with my hands over the course of a few hours. I can only imagine the frustration of people who have to live with limited hand movement or any other disability every single day.
Although I was frustrated through most of the day, whenever I figured out a different way to do something, I felt an intense moment of satisfaction. I could think, “Ha! I did it and didn’t need help.”
The experience opened my eyes to how much something like the loss of full hand motion could impact my life.
Disabilities are not something you can always see, and if people live long enough, they will probably have a disability because many disabilities are caused by old age, Brittany Otter, Students for Disability Awareness co-founder, said.
Little things like language can be really important to someone with a disability. “Person-first” language is important. Otter suggested that instead of saying “disabled person” say “person with a disability” because the person may not want their disability to define them.
“You have no idea who has, or will have, a disability,” Otter said.
This was my personal experience with disability. Other people who went through the experience, or have real disabilities, may feel differently than I do. But that’s the point; everyone is different and experiences things differently.