People living with disabilities want to be seen and heard just like anyone else, according to several Georgian Court University students who spoke candidly at a recent Disability Awareness Month event.
An October 5 panel discussion, hosted by GCU’s Academic Development & Support Center (ADSC), included students with disabilities such as autism, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), anxiety, hearing impairments, cerebral palsy, and more. The group shared personal experiences and shared insight for their peers and university professionals:
- When writing or speaking about people with disabilities, put the person first. Focus on the person, not the disability. For example, the “person is blind,” the “child who is deaf,” the “individual with a disability.” Always choose words that reflect individuality, equality, and dignity.
- Refer to people as having different abilities, especially since there is no state of normal, in general. One panelist pointed out that they had been living with a disability all their life and didn’t know any other way of being.
- Don’t judge a book by its cover, especially when it comes to invisible disabilities and illnesses.
The college students also answered questions relating to COVID-19 and the additional challenges posed by the pandemic. A student who is hard of hearing couldn’t read lips because of masks and found that some people spoke softer when wearing a mask—problems that made the student feel a loss of human connection.
In addition, a student with ADHD found online learning and studying at home was too distracting. Instead, they learned better when face to face with faculty.
A few panelists added that they struggle with social skills, which presents a challenge on a college campus. But social interactions don’t have to be difficult. Instead, they offered familiar words of advice to their peers: be respectful and patient, accept people for who they are, and treat others how you would like to be treated.
Story contributed by Georgian Court University digital communication major Alycia Bardon ’22.