The Culture Specificity of Disabilities

Here in the United States disabilities are prevalent but often swept under the rug. Unless you have a reason to talk about them or you live with someone who has one, the topic is usually never brought up. The reason is because kids with severe disabilities are separated from the general education classes in school. Kids are taught to treat everyone equally but what happens when someone has a clear and visual disability? In the article, “Looking under Disability,” the author, Kris Castner, is confronted with this exact problem. The man at the grocery store says hello to her every time she comes in and she wants to know his name but he is in a wheelchair. And to look at his nametag would break the respect that the United States has placed on eye contact. Eye contact is a way to show respect to other people here in the United States, other countries though see this as disrespectful, especially with someone of the opposite sex. She doesn’t want to point out the fact that this man is in a wheelchair but she does want to know his name. Is this also culturally specific, though? In other cultures do they talk about and handle disabilities the same way we do? Indians used to leave people with disabilities to die or fend for themselves. It is hard to think that even a few decades ago here in the United States disabilities were handled so differently. Kids weren’t even going to school with “regular” kids let alone participating in PE together. The new education of disabilities has opened up a new door for kids dealing with this. But it is only talked about to the kids who want to know about them. The way cultures handle disabilities are much like eye contact and knowing someone’s name… culture specific.

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