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Disability vs. Difference

by Michelle Rudas and David Smith CLE Davie

Working at Holiday InnWe set off to discover a few things about the beliefs of our students. We are particularly interested in how they view the word disability. In the course of the conversations we had with five students we discussed issues related to disability in the workplace including the nature of a disability, disclosure and accommodation. There was a range and a similarity of views among our students on what disability is:

It is like a label, yet there are people with disabilities that have the ability to live successful and wonderful lives with disabilities.

It is just a word.

I think it means someone who has difficulties in certain things.

The word is debilitating. When you hear the word disability it means something is wrong.

When I think of the word disabled, I think of someone who can’t function correctly. I don’t agree with the word disabled I would rather use the word differences. Everyone is different in their own way.

Do our students consider themselves to have a disability?

Not necessarily! Most of our students perceive a disability as someone who is in a wheelchair, someone with a physical difficulty. They see themselves solely as having a different way of looking at things; they perceive the world differently and the way in which they go about achieving their goals is different. However, our students are confident that they are more than able to achieve as much as anyone else. As for individuals with Asperger’s or Autism, It is the same concept; they simply have a different way of looking at things.

Students feel that it is not necessary to share their special needs background with their employers.
However, if a situation arises, they do not hesitate to ask for accommodations. Our students have shown a lot of strength. One said, “Yes, I would be honest with my employer because it would be better than them learning of my differences from someone else.” Mostly our students feel that they don’t have a disability, “so why would I share anything?” And still another said,“ I tried that [sharing a disability], and it backfired.”

Language is important. It is also difficult to change in society. To understand that we all have strengths and weaknesses and are all different in a variety of ways, allows us to live and let live without labels.

In conclusion, this article comes to mind.

“Disability”: A Rose by Another Name

by Jan Hunt

Imagine for a moment that you are visiting a plant nursery. You hear a commotion outside, so you investigate. You find a young assistant struggling with a rose bush – he is trying to force open the petals of a rose, and muttering in frustration. You ask him what he is doing, and he explains, “My boss wants all these roses to bloom this week, so last week I taped all the early ones, and now I’m opening the late ones.” You protest that every rose has it’s own schedule of blooming; it is absurd to try to slow down or speed this up; it doesn’t matter when roses bloom; a rose will always bloom at its own best time. You look at the rose again, and see that it is wilting. But when you point this out, he replies, “Oh, too bad, it has genetic dysbloomia. I’ll have to call an expert.” “No, no!” you say, “you caused the wilting! All you needed to do was meet the flowers’ needs for water and sunshine, and leave the rest to nature!” You can’t believe this is happening. Why is his boss so unrealistic and uninformed about roses?

Such a scene would never take place in a nursery, of course, but it happens daily in our schools. Teachers, pressured by their bosses, follow official timetables, which demand that all children learn at the same rate, and in the same way. Yet children are no different than roses in their development: they are born with the capacity and desire to learn, they learn at different rates, and they learn in different ways. If we can meet their needs, provide a safe, nurturing environment, and keep from interfering with our doubts, anxieties, and arbitrary timetables, then – like roses – they will all bloom at their own best time.

Find the full article here:

Newsletter Articles – October 2015

Reese and mentor at Holiday Inn

It may surprise you to hear what I have found to be the biggest challenge for young adults with disabilities as they move through the transition into the working world. You might guess it is something like struggling with learning new tasks at work, or having difficulty engaging with co-workers or supervisors. Maybe even the process of applying and interviewing seems like an insurmountable task. But, no, I would say that while these things might pose some challenges, they are areas that can typically be addressed and overcome through individualized attention and support.

Dealing with adult problems with a learning difference

This story is about the independent person I am today, who is more comfortable in his own skin, and the struggles I went through to become that person. I’m sure we have all tried to become more independent and we’ve gone through struggles, but in all different ways. The funny thing is that no matter how different our journeys are, at the core, the need and desire are essentially the same.

Disability disclosure in the workplace

Disability disclosure in the workplace is a personal choice to be decided by each individual. At CLE, we give our students the information and understanding to decide for themselves what to do when it comes to disclosure. For some, disclosure means being understood and assisted by their employers and co-workers. For others, disability disclosure might be undesirable; being a part of team without a focus on differences is the kind of work experience that these students are looking for.

We spoke with several of our students in the career program and asked them about their choices in disability disclosure. The answers were as varied as our students and it really does show how much the individual’s perception and personality affect their choice.

Cal at CLE - Standup Comedy

Sometimes the traditional Monday-Friday, 8-5 work week is just not the best option for people. This is particularly the case for CLE students who may be trying to balance school, CLE appointments and transportation issues. This predicament can be further complicated for some students due to physical constraints and mobility issues. Cal Sheridan of CLE Denver is one of those students where a conventional career pathway will not be the best fit. Cal has Cerebral Palsy, so the ease with which others move around and verbally communicate at the workplace is not the same for him. As Cal put it to me quite candidly in our career advising session, “It is not like I am going to have a job working in a grocery store. I don’t even bag my own groceries. If someone were to ask me for help with their groceries I would have to find someone to help me help them!”

Nathanial Major at LinkedIn

Over the last five years I have been speaking up for autism on a peer to peer level with an initiative I call Project Speak Up. Each individual on the spectrum is unique. We have a wide range of abilities and interests. I can’t speak for everyone with autism, but I think by sharing my story I can give people some insight into the realities of autism.

In my EnableIn presentation, I emphasized that innovation is just looking at things in a new way. I pointed out that two of the most innovative minds in history, Albert Einstein and Nicolo Tesla had personality traits and communication deficits that could be considered to be on the spectrum. I then asked the question, what if Einstein or Tesla applied to your company? Would their quirky behavior, social awkwardness and difficulty with communication make it challenging for them to even get past the first interview?

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This has been a special needs program update from College Living Experience | CLE | Choose Your Future. You may also click here to read the original article on the main program website.