I stand about 5 feet 5 inches talI. I weigh 135 pounds and I have brown hair. I look like the average Joe that you would meet
on the street or at work. I am college educated, have a job, and live independently. By the way, I use a walker
and have a speech impediment.
The above profile describes me and who I am by listing what are essentially a number of characteristics that set me apart from another person, thus making me a unique individual just like yourself. I may have a disability that limits me in one or two areas; however, I do not focus on what I can’t do because there is so much more that I can do. Often times the problems I encounter are imposed upon me by a larger societal attitude.
Sometimes people behave in a way that is condescending or offensive because they are totally unfamiliar or fear the disability.
You should not feel bad if you cannot always clearly understand what a person who has a speech impediment
is saying. It takes two to make a conversation flow. I have found that the non-disabled person is often
embarrassed to ask the speech-impaired person to repeat themselves. They may say “I understand” and then walk away, asking themselves “what the Hell did he say?” If you do not understand me, try to make the effort. In many cases you might need to just have a word or two clarified in order to understand.
Looking beyond a person’s disability is not always an easy thing to do! Unfortunately, many service providers and parents perpetuate the kind of behavior that is counter productive or demeaning. This behavior is not necessarily intentionally done, but rather it is done through years of societal conditioning.
For example, it is NOT okay to belittle a person with a disability by patting them on the head, arm or leg when greeting them. If the person can grasp your hand, then shake his hand. It is also important that the person who is disabled make the effort to greet the other person as well.
I find it very demeaning when a person with a disability is called Pal or Buddy. Every person has a first and last name. My name happens to be Mike Cohn, not Buddy or Pal. People with disabilities deserve to be treated like anyone else. It is okay to offer assistance; it is not okay to insist on assisting if the person declines the
offer. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, for that is how we learn about one another.
Disabled people are like everyone else; some are intensely private about themselves and some are very focused on themselves, but most want to mix in with everyone else and contribute in what ever ways we can to the greater good of society.