Understanding Our Differences

When I was in elementary school, I participated in a mandatory program called “Understanding Disabilities” which focused on a particular condition each year. During the three years my class did the program, we learned about blindness, deafness, and cerebral palsy. What stood out to me the most was not what this program offered in terms of content, but its name. Between two of the years, “Understanding Disabilities” became “Understanding our Differences.” The new title seems more fitting because it does not label the ‘disabled’ person who came to talk to us. The label gives the impression that this person came to talk to us about a problem they have and the struggles they face because of it. The idea of “difference” changed the nature of program toward understanding that we are all very similar, despite some of these differences, and the disconnect comes from our inability to overlook differences that we deem ‘significant.’ Who should decide what is ‘significant?’ Why has this idea of ‘difference’ replacing ‘disability’, which I heard about as early as 2005, not yet become universally known? What steps have been taken in the last 10 years to progress and preach it?

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