A few weeks ago, Yair and I attended the Austin Symphony and sat next to a man with a prosthetic leg. The natural reaction of a child to our neighbor might have been to stare and to begin asking questions. The natural reaction of an adult might have been to “politely” ignore the difference and look the other way.
Much to my mortification, Yair opted for the first approach and jumped in with: “Hi! Can I ask you some questions about your leg?”
I was momentarily horrified, but soon stood corrected as we quickly developed an incredible conversation with the man next to us. I climbed over Yair so that I could be the one asking the questions and – during the course of the evening – we learned about what had happened, how he adjusted, the hardest part, the technology of a prosthetic leg and how that technology has changed over time.
Our new friend David’s poise and sense of humor was incredible. He shared with us that a group of children once ran over to him to ask where his other leg went. A moment later, a girl said “Okay, now everyone stand on one foot!” Sure enough, the entire group stood on one foot and they all began hopping – including David.
Kids often don’t realize how they are “supposed to act”, but most adults still don’t know how to act and feel uncomfortable in these situations.
This encounter inspired me to envision and create a Disabilities Awareness Forum in Austin this October. The event would provide a forum to learn about differences instead of ignoring them and my goals would be several-fold:
- To empower those with disabilities to speak and share their stories
- To practice thoughtful and respectful conversation, and enhance communication skills
- To offer a learning opportunity for adults, but also for children and parents
- To create a way to bring together our community to focus on the unity of our experience as Austinites
Getting local government and non-profit partners on board for this event and being the linchpin organizer has been more time-consuming than I thought it would be, but hopefully the outcome will be worth it!
posted by ayo