Understanding disability

What is disability?

The UN Convention on the Rights of Disabled Persons (2006) recognises that people are only disabled by their ability to interact with the people and environment around them. So by creating an accessible space, you enable a person instead of disabling them.

For example, a bumpy road may prevent a wheelchair user from reaching their destination. Once that same road is smoothly paved, they are no long disabled by the surface and can get to where they are going.

For your students to be able to think about the accessibility of a space, they need to understand the needs of different people. The activity below invites pupils to think about the people they know with disabilities and their needs. To do this activity in more depth look at our course: Encouraging Inclusion in the Classroom.

Activity

Invite your pupils to discuss these questions;

  • What is a disability?
  • Do you know anyone with a disability?
  • What do they need to help them at home/ school/ out and about?
  • What (if anything) do you do to help them at home/ school/ out and about?
  • Have you ever tried to go somewhere or do something but needed help to do it?  The pictures below, might give you some ideas: 
  • How did it make you feel not being able to do things by yourself? 
Three photos show different scenarios. The first is a young adult in a wheelchair reaching up for a book on a library bookshelf. The second is a young girl in the countryside. She laughing as she has one foot stuck in the mud, right up to her knee. The third picture is of a small child reaching up to grab a strawberry off a kitchen surface.

You can invite your students to do this in a group or as an individual exercise.

You can download the questions as a work sheet in a word document here:

Below is an example of a worksheet completed by a 15 year old student:

The photo shows a worksheet with 7 questions and 6 handwritten answers: 1.Do you know anyone with a disability? Yes, back at home I have a friend with down syndrome. 
2. What do they need to help them at home or school or out and about? She’s very smart she just needs everything to be made or told more slowly
3. What (if anything) do you do to help them at home or school or out and about? Talk to her more slowly so she can catch up everything I say
4. Have you ever tried to go somewhere or do something but needed help to do it? If so, what was it? Yes I broke my arm once and I needed help to wash myself.
5. How did it make you feel not being able to do this by yourself? Hopeless, It was horrible trying to do something so simple and not being able to
6. Has anyone stopped you doing something because they thought you could not do it? No, I’ve surrounded myself with good people
7. How did that make you feel? No answer, ends.

Key learning points

~ People are only disabled by their ability to interact with the people and environment around them.

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