Some Social Barriers & The Solutions:
FEAR - This is the most common obstacle. We are often afraid of people we see as different, so we choose not to interact with them. Or perhaps we don’t want to be invasive or offensive.
OVERCOMING FEAR People are people, and we are all different, but also similar in various ways. Some like casual conversation and some don’t. Some appreciate help, and others don’t. Human connections are worth the risk.
AWKWARDNESS - Perhaps we just don’t know what to say. We don’t have the right words. We don’t know exactly what to do, and we don’t want to stare. We are not the only ones who feel awkward. People with differing abilities are often used to being treated differently or sometimes even ignored. Thus, they may have expectations of not being included, and their behavior may appear aloof because they are used to feeling marginalized.
OVERCOMING AWKWARDNESS -Change needs to occur for everyone. We can all overcome the awkwardness. Just like with fear, awkwardness can also be overcome by altering our own behavior. We all have differences, but we need to find common ground. That's how we make connections. When you speak to someone, even a stranger, you look him or her in the eye. That’s where it starts. Eye contact, then a connection is made, and we are on our way to inclusion and unification.
DIFFICULTY: It is much easier to look away than to watch someone struggle.
OVERCOMING DIFFICULTY - Bridging the gap between different people is easier than you think, and just because someone has a disability does not mean it's always a struggle. People with disabilities can be socially marginalized because connecting with them may seem effortful, even uncomfortable. Thus, they can be overlooked, ignored and treated as if they don’t exist. This social isolation is an avoidable struggle. It is also one we can change as a society.
DISINTEREST - Maybe you have nobody in your social circle with a disability. It’s not your thing. It’s not your problem. You’re busy. You have your own issues and agenda.
OVERCOMING DISINTEREST - As human beings, we have a social responsibility to care for one another. We take turns offering and receiving help when one is needy or one is able. The one thing we can be sure of is that at some point in life, everyone will experience a limitation on our abilities, even a temporary one. We will all experience a moment when we do not have our full abilities. If you have ever been on crutches, had your eyes dilated, been bed bound, been disoriented, needed an inhaler, been in a foreign country without speaking the language, or even just lost your voice, you have experienced limitations on your abilities. You were likely dependent on somebody to help you. A person to drive you somewhere, reach something for you, to translate, to open a door for you, feed you, help you get dressed, read something to you… That help was given because somebody cared. That human concern is what makes the world go ‘round. Pay it forward. It will come back when you need it.
DISGUST - It’s hard to admit this one, but it exists. We are human and we learn by example. Disgust over a disability or difference that you see is a learned reaction, not an innate one. Our society teaches us not to look at someone who is different, or perhaps has a deformity or a behavior that we don't understand. Sometimes strange behavior makes us want to run. Parents often think they should protect their children from seeing individuals who are suffering or are different. If we can't see past the disability, it's just not easy to watch.
OVERCOMING DISGUST - Human beings are amazing creatures. We can get used to almost anything. Children pick up on the cues of their parents and of their role models. If we show fear, they feel fear. If we show disdain, they discover disdain. If we show compassion, they learn compassion. Compassion always feels right and is easily passed forward to others. Shut your eyes and look beyond a disability. Then you can see more clearly. You will see a person. Now reevaluate your disgust, and then let it go.
WHERE WE GOTTA DIG IT!
- In public spaces – on the street, at restaurants, in shops, in parks, in pools, at sporting events, in camps..
- In private residences – at social functions, at parties,at home...
- In academic environments – at schools and universities...
- In religious institutions – during prayers or events...
- In the workplace – with colleagues and clients...
- In life!