Getting Started - A Guide for Faculty and Staff
There are over 1000 students with invisible and visible disabilities attending the University of Georgia. As more children with disabilities receive adequate secondary school education, greater numbers of students will be pursuing higher education. Some of the major obstacles these students encounter are myths and stereotypical attitudes related to their disability. The following are common myths held by society about people with disabilities:
- All people with disabilities are handicapped and/or crippled.
- People with disabilities are physically unhealthy, dependent and lonely.
- People with disabilities lead totally different lives than others do.
- Disability is a constantly frustrating tragedy. People with disabilities are brave and inspirational by being able to overcome their handicaps.
These attitudes may arise from fear or a simple lack of understanding of disabilities. We hope that by presenting accurate information, we will help you overcome your fears and increase your awareness on issues related to people with disabilities. If you would like more information about specific disabilities, you are encouraged to contact the Disability Resource Center. The following are suggestions to help you as you begin to interact with students who have disabilities:
- Remember that a student who has a disability is first and foremost a person. The student is like everyone else, except for the limitation(s) imposed by his or her disability.
- Speak directly to the individual with the disability. Do not let a companion be a go-between for conversation.
- Offer assistance if asked or if the need seems obvious. Do not overdo it. Respect the person's right to indicate the kind of help that is needed.
- Be aware that individuals with disabilities vary in lifestyles, activities, and personality characteristics as do nondisabled individuals.
- Appreciate what the student can do. Remember that the difficulties he or she may be facing could stem more from society's attitudes and barriers than from a disability.
- Be considerate of the extra time it might take for this person to get things done. Let him or her set the pace in walking or talking.
- Keep in mind that people with disabilities differ in how they are affected by their disability and how they react to having a disability.
- Relax. If you do not know what to say or do, allow the person who has the disability to help put you at ease.
- Keep in mind that your attitude toward the student and his or her disability has the potential of being more handicapping to the individual than the disability itself.