If we think about disabled learners (or for that matter, tutors), we often think about people with physical or mental issues that prevent them from being considered as mainstream. It’s the person who is disabled, and this is manifested by their difficulty in fitting into a traditional work or home environment. That’s the traditional medical view But let’s just pause a moment and challenge that.
Think about a wheelchair user. In your office, perhaps there’s a disabled parking space, a lift up to the third floor, and perhaps there is a disabled toilet facility. In that environment, the person can function perfectly effectively and give of their talents – they are not in any way disabled. But think about that same person visiting a shopping centre where the access is via three steps. In such an environment, that person is indeed disabled. But the important thing to understand is that it’s not the person who is disabled, it’s the environment that’s disabling them.
Many technologies exist that enable disabled people to operate very effectively in a traditional work environment. These might include magnifiers, speech to text technology and text to speech technology. Using these technologies, as an example, allows individuals to function very effectively – they can perhaps even utilise their unique talents.
So perhaps it is time to reconsider what we understand by the term ‘disabled’, and ask ourselves whether it’s the individual who is disabled, or whether it’s our preconceptions and the environment around them, that is disabling them.would welcome a greater number of opportunities to communicate with each other and with us.