One of the challenges to friendships developing between people with and without disabilities is simply the discomfort—even fear—that people often have when faced with someone with whom they are unfamiliar. Appearances, behaviors, adaptive equipment, communication issues, etc. have all been identified as things that “get in the way” of relationships.
A number of approaches have been developed that can help people without disabilities become more aware and understanding of the “mysteries” of those differences that some people with disabilities might have. If you or someone you care about is having trouble “fitting in,” you might want to consider some of the available approaches to make others aware:
–The “I Care program” uses volunteer readers in classrooms who read age-appropriate books about people with disabilities to young students.
–“Understanding Our Differences” has volunteers with disabilities who visit classrooms, give a presentation and answer questions from the students.
-Many organizations use an awareness approach of having people without disabilities use adaptive equipment for a while that can simulate what it’s like to use a wheelchair, have a visual or hearing impairment, etc.
-For a thoughtful video on this topic created by a high school student with a disability, check out www.imtyler.org.
Even though these approaches have often proved helpful, NOTHING can take the place of people with and without disabilities interacting together, wherever people live, learn, work and play. Please visit our website for information about The Real Friends Project.