Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Enough Said

I sat through a training film that drove me nuts. Just nuts. It arrived in the mail with a request that I review it and send it back. It was a short 'you tube' kind of film about a bunch of students who were 'experiencing disability' - clever stuff that. They tied blindfolds over their eyes and then attempted, unsuccessfully, to do a puzzle. They put them in electric wheelchairs and they crashed into things. They gave them earmuffs and let them try to talk to someone. Afterwards they went on and on and on about how much they'd learned.

They learned it was tough to be disabled.

Give me a freaking break.

What a stupid exercise. It's an exercise that reinforces stereotypes not challenges them. It reinforces a gratefulness not to 'be like that'. It reinforces the heirarchy - just what we need.

And stupid, stupid, stupid.

A blind guy would have had the puzzle done in six seconds. Cause he'd know how to manipulate by touch. He wouldn't have broken a sweat.

A disabled woman would have steered the wheelchair without a problem. Cause she'd know exactly how to maneuver the steering stick. She wouldn't have come near the wall.

Any deaf person alive would know sign, big deal about the communication.

They made the DISABILITY the issue. They tried to get them to experience DISABILITY. All they did was tittilate themselves with the idea of being disabled all the while they knew they could see, walk and hear. This is NOTHING. Not A Thing.

I'm annoyed.

Because the issue isn't disability. Please get that. It isn't overcoming blindess or deafness, it isn't overcoming life in a wheelchair.

It's about bigotry.

It's about attitudes that think doing puzzles with a blindfold over your eyes will lead to insight about another life. It's about attitudes that 'thank heaven's that's not me'. It's about attitudes that the barrier is the disability.

The barrier has never really been the disability - it's attitudes that have stopped generations of people from participating fully. Attitudes that lead to segregation. Attitudes that lead to unemployment and poverty.

Say it with me ... congregate, segregate, persecute, destroy

That's the history of disabled people. That's what normates need to learn.


It ain't about no freaking puzzle and a blindfold.

How shallow is that?

So now those kids walk away from the lesson just feeling lucky. And that feeling of luck. Of being better than, blessed even. Of not being disabled. That's the main ingrediant for cooking up a batch of bigotry.

I hated it.

I guess you can tell, huh?

Enough said.


Anonymous said...

Just to point out for the record, not all deaf people necessarily sign. Some do stick exclusively to speaking and lipreading by a combination of upbringing and even by personal choice. This seems to be especially the case for people who became deaf much later in life. A handful of deaf people used cued speech.

Personally I prefer signs when I have the chance, lipread when I have to, and use writing as a back up.

But I do agree with ALL of your basic points here which is that this approach to "disability sensitivity training" teaches EXACTLY the WRONG lessons and doesn't even BEGIN to touch upon what the "experience" of being disabled is like for someone who has more than five minutes of experience at it,

Mark Pathak said...

Keep the faith.

Excellent blog David.

Mark Pathak said...

Keep thje faith.

Great blog David.

Shame there is no way I can forward individual blogs onto people. Or is there?

ntmjbmom said...

That sounds like what they do at my child's school each year.

What would you suggest would be a good alternative?

I will see if we can get it changed..give me some idea of what would be a good think for elementary school children.

My youngest will be entering the school, in the fall..and he has CP..I'm anxious to help the school/students in the best way I can.


Anonymous said...

What should schools do? Well, they can take bullying of people with disabilities seriously, for a start. Then maybe as a further step provide them with relevant education (speaking particularly of people with intellectual disabilities here).

With regard to Dave's blog, this eyes-covered-now-I-know-about-being-blind stuff really is silly and insulting.

I mean, if we lived in a society where people with black hair faced all sorts of discrimination that other people did not, would it make sense to have those people wear black wigs and have rocks thrown at them or something?

I guess it would help them appreciate the experience of getting hit by rocks but it wouldn't do a lot to address the problem...the problem having nothing to do with the person's hair, but rather with the attitudes that made it an issue.

It's sort of like skipping meals for 24 hours and pretending you understand poverty.

seahorse said...

Dreadful, unhelpful exercise.
Our son's school does pretty well. Doesn't stop one kid kicking his friend's wheelchair and tipping him out of it occasionally. Some friend. That's bullying. I'm glad my son pointed it out. How the school deal with it will be important.

Anonymous said...

Hi Dave, excellent, thought provoking article. Sorry to change the subject but it's the only way i could think to contact you. Can i draw your attention to something which i have recently found that i am trying to get media coverage for here in Scotland. There is a website called which is a British Army "rumours" website. A recent, and frighteningly popular thread, sees hundreds of Bristish soldiers glorying and fantasising in the abuse of disabled children. And they wonder why we have abuses in Iraq. I wondered if it might be worth a blog, as mentioned i am trying to get media here to pick up on this, it will be interesting to see how interested they are.

Anonymous said...

Long-time lurker, first-time poster...

I was wondering what you think about places like the Unsicht-Bar in Berlin?

Dave Hingsburger said...

To the last two posters, I went to the rumours site but couldn't find the thread you were talking about. I'd like to see it then write about it. Can you give me better directions?

I also went to the 'dark' restaurant and thought it was cool. Here they weren't trying to get patrons to experience disability, they were trying to eliminate sight as a sense so that diners could concentrate on food, on company without visual distractions. It's all in how somehting is presented. The only mention of blindness was that the waiters were blind so they could navigate the dark - but the experience they wanted others to have had nothing to do with 'blindness' it was about intenstying taste and sound. Rather cool. I'd go.


Tamara said...

There is a mom who has a child with Down syndrome who does these types of "exercises" with kids in her son's class - and teaches other parents to do the same. I hate it!

Thanks for talking about it -- There are too many people out there who think it's a good thing -


Anonymous said...

Hi Dave

on the website, if you click on the "arrse froums" buttons on the left hand row of options, then scroll about 3/4 of the way down the next page you will see a thread called "Now that's what i call NAFFI bar". Then you will se the thread near the top "mentally handicapped kids". I came across the link by accident after going there after a mention on another topic entirely on The Scotsman newspaper website. It is truly the most horrific thing i have come across in a long time.

ps my name is Stephen and i'm at The Thistle Foundation in Edinburgh where we have had the pleasure of your company a couple of times. Keep up the good work, your blog is a daily inspiration. If you need anything else from me you can get me at

Stephen Finlayson

Anonymous said...

Just in case you can;t find it here is a small sample.

Though I am in no way racist, fascist etc.

"I was wondering what peoples opinions are on the nazis gassing and experimenting on said mlaars and tards.

I personally would have hairs standing on the back of my head in delight at the sight of screaming, terrified naked mlaars being beaten into a gas chamber. Could you imagine watching them through the window scream and attack each other in fear, clawing at each other faces not knowing where they are or what is going to happen in the next 30 seconds.
down syndrome adults and down syndrome children all terrified and covered in their own excrement and urine that was evacuated out of their fat podgy bodies in fear. Oh the smell of heavenly infactuiation.
Little down syndrome toddlers being trodden into the ground in a blood stained mess by the larger mongoloid adults, cant you just hear the crack of little ribs snapping under the weight of one of these terrified hephalumps. Banging on the windows screaming 'where am I ' wheres my teddybear'."

Stephen Finlayson

Anonymous said...

I've looked at the arrs website and it looks like it's for arrs-holes to be honest. It says at the outset that there are posts on the forum that are nasty and if you're easily offended - stay out.

The internet is a wonderful source of information - you can learn how to boil an egg, or build a bomb.
Shite is out there - but you don't have to read it. You are your own, most effective, censor.

I don't condone the attitudes of people who post their narrow-minded bigoted opinions on the internet - but it would be the devils own job to stamp it out.

Anonymous said...

Hi Carole, i tend to agree for the most part (especially about the arse holes bit)but what i find particularly frightening and worthy of greater exposure are that these are soldiers - when we have hatred of this sort coming from people who are being sent on "humanitarian" missions across the world. We can censor ourselves but that doesn;t stop the hatred from being out there and i think that particularly from people with such power it needs exposed and stood up against.

kind regards

Anonymous said...

I agree with Stephen. If the only thing we had to worry about were people's FEELINGS, then I'd say, fine. Let the arse-holes be arse-holes in their own corner of the universe. And as long as they confine their more offensive statements to that corner of it and spare me the sight of them, then I'm fine with them saying whatever they like.

The trouble is, sometimes it's NOT just about feelings. It's about people getting hurt in ways that really matter. Meaning by actually getting beaten up or tortured, physically or mentally. Hurt in ways that involve flesh and blood--literally. Hurt in ways that take you to the hospital--assuming you even live long enough to get there.

Probably (or so I hope) most of the people doing this fantasizing think they're just indulging in a "harmless" thought exercise of sorts. One that happens to entertain themselves without hurting real flesh-and-blood people in the real world.

But if so, I think they're very wrong. Because there is probably a minority of participants in that thread who would actually like to do it in the real world to real people, not just in fantasy. And when it becomes acceptable to share fantasies of this type, then you've moved toward creating an atmosphere where people who are already on the edge will start thinking it wouldn't be so terrible if they actually DID go ahead and torture somebody. After all, if so many people are fantasizing about it, then surely they wouldn't object too hard if once in a while someone went ahead and did it, even if they wouldn't have the nerve to do it themselves.

I also have to be very concerned about what these kinds of fantasies say about the kinds of attitudes these soldiers hold toward people with mental retardation. Again--probably most of them are "just fantasizing," or at least think they are. (Or so I hope.) But if you've already dehumanized people with cognitive impairments enough to consider images of their agony and suffering merely amusing, rather than just as horrifying as any other image of agony and suffering, then that probably reflects an attitude that may lead to other kinds of harm. For example, if one of their own children were to be born with Downs Syndrome, I would venture the guess that someone with these kinds of fantasies would be less motivated to push for the best possible education and services for that child and more likely to give serious consideration to putting that child in an institution. NOT because they've spent time doing this kind of fantasizing but because of the ATTITUDES they hold toward disabled people.

So for me, the important thing is not to try and put a stop to this kind of fantasizing per se. The important thing is to address the kind of attitudes that first LED to this kind of fantasizing in the first place. One means of doing that is to bring attention to these kinds of discussion threads and starting a dialogue on the kinds of attitudes they reflect (and reinforce). And why these attitudes lead to real HARM to real people. And, no, by real harm I DON'T simply mean "hurt feelings" or being "offended."


Jeff said...

The training film would drive me crazy also.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts.


All 4 My Gals said...

Interesting Dave. When I talk about disabilities at my kids school I do use an exercise where I have 2 kids race to tie their shoes, I have one of them wearing gloves. My point I make is that sometimes people can't help it if they are slower, there may be something about their body or mind that makes them different but it doesn't make the typical person any better. I also have them write their names on their papers w/their left hand and ask them if it was harder and what if they had to write like that all day? I then talk to them about determination of people who have to do things differently.

You have me re-thinking these exercises. I like to do hands on things to keep them engaged and to get them to consider what it is to be different. I definitely take the attitude of respect and not pity. But still...what do you think? Thanks!

Celestine Chappell said...

Back in the early 70's when I was training to be a special education teacher, I took a class where we had to experience what it was like to have a disability. We had to use a wheelchair on campus that was not handicap accessible. We had our ears plugged, eyes bound, wore braces, used crutches, had to communicate without using the standard English language etc. It was not just a one day experience. We did each of these things for a week at a time, had to not only go to classes, but were disabled 24-7. We also went through training to navigate, communicate etc. It was one of the most profound experiences of my life and I was sad when the class ended after a whole semester of living with disability(s). I did not feel pity for persons with disabilities afterward. I felt extreme admiration! It was hard to be disabled. It was hard to go through training to learn how to live with your disability. This amazing professor also took a group of students to a state facility where we were admitted as if we were persons with mental retardation and other disabilities. This was an even greater experience. We lived in the institution for 6 weeks before staff were told who we were-normal college kids preparing to be special educators. Now after 33 years of working in the field, in public schools, community and institutional settings, I can say that those experiences were more than beneficial. I did not see the training video, but I do feel that you can teach empathy for persons with disability and help others to treat persons with disabilities with the respect that is due them. I know that Dr. Lorretta Holder would have dropped dead in her tracks if she had thought her experiences for us would have instilled pity instead of admiration and empathy. She lived with polio and each day showed us how valuable she was as a person, instructor, leader, etc. despite her physical disability. Now after over 30 years working in the field, I still marvel at the tremendous gifts persons with disabilities have and how they teach us to perservere when things are not easy. I hope that whoever made the video will go back and rethink how to best bring this message to others.

Ettina said...

I was thinking it would be good to do simulations that specifically show what it's like, not to be disabled, but to have your abilities conflict with what the environment expects. I might have a simulation of giftedness where a grade 3 kid sits in on a grade 1 class and the teacher pretends they're like the other kids and gets mad at them for signs of boredom. I might have a simulation of left-handedness where a right-ahnded child uses tools designed for left-handed people - left-handed scissors, a door with the knob on the opposite side, etc. If I had stuff like getting them to use a wheelchair or wear a blindfold, I'd make it very clear that real disabled people don't find it as hard. I might, for example, have a race between a real wheelchair kid and a nondisabled kid trying out a wheelchair. I might also lead the nondisabled kids in wheelchairs to a public place where they are not known by the people there, so they can experience a) lack of wheelchair accessibility and b) the kind of prejudice visibly disabled people experience in public. I'd discuss it with them, and expressly state what's really part of being disabled and what's just because they're not used to wheelchairs. I might get a physically disabled person to talk to them about their experiences in wheelchairs.
Personally, I found the disability awareness thing my school used fascinating, and knew much of the difficulty was just because I wasn't used to these things. I practiced wandering around with my eyes closed for a long time afterwards. But I wouldn't be surprised if many other kids interpreted it differently.

Anonymous said...


Keep deleting the posts - we're going to keep on posting.

Pathetic heaps of skin.

Anonymous said...

Ahhhh... the sign of a true liberalfascist: delete and destroy anything that contradicts their happy little view of their happy little world.

You really are a stupid pathetic little cunt.

PS All the disabled people you work with hate you, think you are a condecending prick and are far better people than you.

PPS Can you please stop stealing the world's oxygen? Better people than you need it.

Anonymous said...




Anonymous said...

Changing back to the comments about ARRSE for a mo. I hope you'll leave this comment in order to put a bit of perspective on the matter. Obviously, you're free to delete it if you see fit but, if you or your readers have any real wish to understand the "human condition" then perhaps it should be left.

I'm a member of the forum, and have been for several years. I'm an ex-serviceman and understand that the comments in that thread (and possibly others) are not "fantasies", "repressed desires" or anything else that they may appear to an outsider.

It's a form of "squaddie humour" that I must admit I've never found all that funny but it serves a very real and entirely necessary purpose.

You see, any and all of the posters on a thread like that have lived in an environment where they themselve could become severely disabled without warning.

Indeed, now more than ever that's the case. Medical care has advanced to the point where many battlefield injuries that would have meant death a few years ago now mean a lifetime of unimaginable disability instead.

Living with that possibility needs coping mechanisms and appearing to have no regard whatsoever for disability is one such mechanism.

But, and it's a big "but", these are the self-same people who will risk their own lives to save an orphan on the streets of Iraq, or to pull a pensioner from flood waters in Gloucestershire.

Such banter has been a part of military life since forever - and is an essential part of coping with the fact that you could be dead, or worse, at any moment.

Perhaps it's bad that it's now "exposed" to public view, by people who have no concept of the dangers and judge from a normal (yes, I do mean "normal") perspective. But the thread quoted grew from a distinctly [i]ab[/i]normal perspective which is part-and-parcel of someone who's prepared to have his or her own body shredded by an IED in order to defend, not only your right to live free but, within that, even your right to read and pass comment on things said as a pressure-valve.

I give this post a life-span of about 15 minutes (posted 1915 060807) ;)

Dave Hingsburger said...

To those from ARRSE posting comments here, I have not, and never will delete comments from the comment board. I don't know where the accusation comes from that comments have been deleted but it is false. Blogger shows when a comment is deleted.

I am not responding to these individually because I find it interesting that though I have the courage to sign my whole name, my real name, to what I write, none of you do. So, until I can address you individually by name, I will not respond to the content of your messages.

Dave Hingsburger

Anonymous said...

Cry Mlarrr and let slip the mongs.....

Anonymous said...

Dave, the blog post -- yes. Oh, god, yes. Thanks.