Wednesday, May 7, 2008
I consider myself to be an aware person. I feel like I'm attuned to the problem of discrimination. An event this week makes me wonder how aware I really am.
I was attending a special ed law conference this week. The organizers arranged entertainment for a luncheon that included an "inclusion choir" from a local school. They sang three songs. Like almost everybody in the overcrowded audience, I was feeling really good about the inclusion of kids with disabilities in the choir. I thought that this was a feel good moment. I joined in the standing ovation for the choir.
After the luncheon, I had a conversation with an advocate for kids with disabilities. She asked me whether I had noticed anything unusual about the choir's performance. I said yes, the choir included children with disabilities. Wrong answer.
The advocate informed me that the disabled kids were dressed differently (no black vest) than their non-disabled peers. Moreover, all of the disabled kids sat down and did not sing at all during the second of three songs. Yikes! These were two pretty blatant examples of disability discrimination. I was at a conference about disability law, and yet I completely missed both incidents. This leads me to wonder just how much I miss. Talk about feeling like a brick wall just fell down on your head.
One must see discrimination as it occurs before one can work to stop it. Unfortunately, unless one is properly attuned to a problem, it is difficult to even see it while it is happening. I plead guilty, but I'm going to try to learn from this incident. Maybe it's a baby step, but awareness is where it all begins.