Sunday, December 6, 2009

Week #13 - Etiquette & Awareness

First, I thought the study conducted by Justin W. Patchin and Sameer Hinduja raised some interesting points about the use of social networking sites, specifically MySpace in this case (the actual name of the study is entitled Cyberbullying Research Summary - Trends in Adolescent Online Social Networking). I found it very surprising that their research showed a "general trend toward safer and smarter online social networking." I would have figured exactly the opposite. It seems to me that most adolescents feel that they are invincible, whether in the virtual world or the real one. Maybe I am not giving this particular age group enough credit. Perhaps the countless public service messages and radio commercials about online predators are actually getting through to them. Whatever works. It is great that MySpace has been able to eliminate thousands of profiles of registered sex offenders. However, isn't it fairly easy for these same predators to completely make up a profile as if they were teenagers themselves? I'm alarmed that they would have the audacity to create a profile as themselves (real name, address, etc.) in the first place. That is pretty scary.

I took the Disability Awareness Activity Quiz, and I must admit that I did not answer every question correctly. As a society, we are so concerned with not making someone uncomfortable, that we end up doing just that. Of course, there are those who are completely oblivious to the feelings of others, but they would probably be rude or uncaring to anyone, whether he or she is a person with a disability or not. For the most part, however, I think that people want to interact with those living with a disability - they just don't know how to go about doing it without inadvertently offending them. The Ten Commandments of Communicating with People with Disabilities is a very useful, practical guide to follow. One of the questions on the quiz that I missed was, "When conversing with a person who uses a wheelchair, it is preferable to pull up a chair, if available and convenient, and converse at eye level." I answered "False", but the answer is "True". To me, it seems more logical to stand as you normally would, as if to (figuratively) say, "Yes, I know you're in a wheelchair, but we are equal and it seems much more patronizing to make it obvious that I am making an attempt to discuss something at eye level at you." Apparently, this is not the case. I think the nuances of situations like these make people without disabilities uncomfortable with interacting with people with disabilities.

I have a personal example that I still think about. My wife and I were married four years ago. My mother-in-law's friend attended the wedding. She is a person who uses a wheelchair. We decided to do something a little different at the end of the ceremony. Instead of a receiving line, we dismissed each row ourselves at the church and thanked our guests for coming as they left the church pews. My mother-in-law's friend - I'll say her name is Sherri - was seated at the far end of one of the pews with her husband. As we were dismissing rows, we came to their row. Obviously, Sherri couldn't walk down the pew row for us to greet her and her husband, and I didn't know what to do. Should we have walked down the aisle and greeted them, putting them at the center of (I am assuming) unwanted attention? I wanted to thank them for attending the ceremony just as I was for everyone else. I cringe at what I actually did. I sort of waved at them and then quickly looked away. I still think about that and I still don't really know what we should have done. I hope that I didn't make Sherri feel too uncomfortable at that moment. I guess the reason I wanted to share this story is this - Being aware of how we should interact with people living with disabilities is not always a black-or-white, right or wrong issue. There are still shades of grey, but being familiar with the general consensus of what is considered appropriate will go a long way as far as willingly interacting with people living with disabilities.

Here are a few websites that are useful tools in locating and evaluating assistive technology:

Note: I have tried the Insert Link option and been to the Help section many times, but I cannot get the websites to link properly. I am not sure what option I have clicked on this blog site that is not permitting me to link these websites.

1 comment:

  1. good URLs; one can just copy/paste them. Thanks for sharing your story. Differences can get complicated.