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Accommodations Create Opportunities, Not Advantages

Stop asking if a person’s prosthetics, accommodations, and modifications give people unfair advantages and realize advantage comes from deep inside each of us.

It has been a challenge, well maybe more of an annoyance, to watch the news about Oscar Pistorius. The wrong question was asked and the bigger picture/opportunity may have been missed. Rather than asking the question, “Did Oscar and his ‘blades’ have an unfair advantage?”, shouldn’t the question be, “Who will be the next Paralympic athlete to compete in the 2016 Olympics?” It really showcased the approach that many people have to something that is ‘different’ and misunderstood. Rather than looking at his inclusion and ability to compete, the world seemed to focus on segregating  the athlete into ‘their’ own games.

A great example of organizations that embrace the spirit and ability of the competitors, as opposed to the disability is the Extremity Games and X-Games with ESPN.  They are embracing the spirit of competition, the spirit of gamesmanship, the spirit of inclusion; not segregation.  Allowing people who have the desire, spirit, and ability to compete – to compete against each other regardless of their physical disabilities.  Focusing on problem solving rather than asking, “Is it fair?” or “How does it affect me?”

Problem solving, collaborating & resources make a true difference.

This challenge also presents itself when creating programs and opportunities for children to get the services they need. Why do people question a program or service if it is created to include everyone?

This week as the pundits were discussing Oscar’s advantage I couldn’t help but wonder about the families and disabilities we support.

Is it fair that some disabilities get more attention than others? Especially when you consider that the more attention a disability gets, the more potential money gets put into research and services for that specific disability.  Parents of children affected by disabilities want the best for their children, heck my children are healthy and I make sure they get the best in whatever they want.  Don’t you think that people who become disabled later in life want the same opportunities they had before being disabled, whether that be physical, mental, emotional, or cognitive.

What would happen to the 18-20% of the population that is disabled if they united and pushed for equal access to resources, opportunities, and life?  Do you realize that many of the most publicized disabilities may only be .5% to 1.5% of the population?  Yet some of those conditions are pushing to garner a bigger piece of a shrinking pie, which leaves other people with exceptional challenges watching from the outside of the resource pool.  What would happen if that 1% took its international recognition and shared it with other people who had conditions which also interfered in their ability to succeed? Wouldn’t we as a society be better off if the disabled groups united and asked for resources to be used as needed, not just because you have a specific disability?

Let’s look at the functions of disabilities and the number of ways we, as a society, can enrich the lives of those with physical, cognitive, emotional, and sensory impairments.  In turn, we can actually be selfish and ask how that approach can help society create ways and resources for a universally designed life.

Stop asking if a person’s prosthetics, accommodations, and modifications give them an unfair advantage and realize the advantage comes from deep inside each of us.  The question should be – “Who will be the next Paralympic athlete to compete against able bodied countrymen and women?”  The question should be – “What would our lives be like if individuals with disabilities received resources based on need rather than a diagnosis?”

About Brian

Who am I and what do I do?

I am the father of three children, husband to a very special woman, and work as a Social entrepeneur supporting children with disabilities, the families who love them, and professionals who serve them.

I was born and raised in Southeastern CT (Hanover to be exact).  Went to Hofstra University and graduated with an interest in developmental psychology.  After interning and becoming a certified Special Education teacher I worked as a special education teacher, district behavior consultant, and assistive technology coordinator.  

In July of 2009 I left teaching to reach for my dream to be an effective positive influence on familes, school districts, and service providers across the region, something not possible in the classroom.

Early in 2009 Synergy Center was created, followed by Sensations Charitable Foundation as vehicles to support families with social, emotional, and behavioral needs.  Since their creation we have made a positive difference in the lives of more than 200 families, teachers, and service providers.

Working with Patch is an opportunity to continue our work and connect people to information and services their families need to be their best, yet may not find in through typical channels.  As I say to people who either help our cause or come to us for support - Let's Play!

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Rajkumar Oberoi August 09, 2012 at 03:19 PM
Submission by author is commendable & duty of able body should definitely be accommodation oriented energy gained by athlete in allowing him to participate will bring Olympics to new horizons, a day will come when many disabled will be out of the slot of disabled voluntarily. Just if look at a mentally retarded person he many a times acts violently to express himself but God almighty has given him a instrument as a gift to laugh also, which is self generating after a tense session of his brain. So let us help the invalids as much as we can.
Kelly Tchorz August 10, 2012 at 06:26 PM
Well written Brian! Having worked with many MS patients, this really struck me. So many people are just trying to get to the level of "normal playing field" in their day to day lives when they have disabilities to overcome.
Thanks Kelly, Many folks with physical disabilities without cognitve deficits present emotional lessons to those of us without physical challenges. The difficulty is when individuals can see (or recognize) situations that they must work harder just to be given the same chance as the next guy. Working in our industries and being aware is very humbling.
Catherine & Dennis August 11, 2012 at 03:05 AM
I would love a world where everyone was recognized as having different abilities and do away with the word disability. We talk of diversity all the time but many people limit that word to race, and religion. Diversity in my mind should incorporate everyone and spend less time segmenting everyone into a category. I remember a child that I baby sat, Stephen, when I was young. The term they gave to him was retarded. He had difficulty speaking, looked different from most other children but had this amazing gift that he could cut out very detailed animals, even a trip to the dentist complete with the chair, equipment etc. -all without drawing it first and he started upside down and backwards. It was amazing art work. I will never forget the things I learned from Stephen.-Catherine
Thank you Catherine for this memory and wish for the future. That is why I love doing what we do. The kids are amazing. You want a great college/intern project - find children in special education rooms and focus on finding their 'talents', no focus on academics, and then share what they found at the IEP or MAPS. Imagine what we as a society could add to our community if we just shifted focus a few degrees!

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