Thursday, October 18, 2012

8 Points For Understanding Disability/Able-bodiedness as Intercultural Communication

Intro: I reflect on this while reading The Handbook of Communication With People With Disabilities. A few days ago, something happened in German Class. We were reviewing body part names, and of course the easiest way to teach it, and another language, is to talk about form-function. So, when the professor said for example, "What are legs for?" Most the students unanimiously said "to walk". I instead answered every question with "Theoretically, use x (body part) to do y (action)." And my professor of course, laughed. Perhaps I was over the top, but as an analyst, it was my duty. So, I present this outline that explains, in part, the disability/able-bodied interaction.      

Understanding communication with PWDs (People With Disabilities) and Able-Bodies (ABs) as intercultural communication:

1.) A disability changes a person’s communication patterns because we are affected in the areas of 1.) mobility 2.) employment 3.) self-care 4.) communication and 5.) social relationships. This is because of how we see ourselves internally as unlimited, but our limitations are visible, unlike able-bodied dependencies, creating tension in situations where what is unfamiliar is emphasized.
2.) Cultural problems between PWDs and ABs are mainly because of a deficit between how PWDs make themselves independent, and how ABs view a PWD as to his/her level of dependence/independence. There is always an attempt to create independence where an AB sees dependency.
3.) Braithwaite and Braithwaite believe one should ask a PWD if they need help, before giving it. Look the PWD in the eye, talk to them as you would an AB.
4.) The verbal and non-verbal patterns of a PWD reflect an ongoing flux of external challenges and struggle for freedom and dignity, specifically in the first three realms mentioned by Crewe & Athaslan, while the last two are dependent on creating cultural understanding.
5.) Disability is the physical condition of being environmentally limited to perform certain sensory activities that AB culture takes for granted in daily life. A handicap is when the environment highlights these limitations and there is no way to overcome them.
6.) Nonverbal communication with a PWD should communicate openness and not uneasiness, independence and not dependence, assertiveness and not hypersensitivity, mainly by means of the PWD constructing assertiveness.
7.) Redefinition is the process by which PWDs redefine their disabilities in a positive light to show that everyone has disabilities and limits, and we can overcome them. While some say I’m confined to a wheelchair, I prefer to say liberated by a wheelchair.
8.) Disability becomes a culture when one recognizes the deficit between physical/mental ability and one’s ability to overcome it.


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