Who Are We to Decide What Should Be?

As I reflect on the discussion from class regarding our interviews, I am even more intrigued by the wide variance of knowledge regarding the ADA and adults with disabilities.  I am not surprised with how often we identified that many were familiar with the ADA and accommodations, but from a ‘visible’ disability standpoint more often than considering what it can provide for those with ‘invisible’ disabilities.  What I am most surprised about I think is my own realization that there are perhaps so many misperceptions of what having a learning disability can mean.

I have to admit, after reading and discussing the lives of so many adults with learning disabilities I have a new appreciation for what they must go through; but perhaps more importantly, a new appreciation for what they are capable of.  Others at the beginning of their learning experiences told so many of them that, because they learned differently, they may not amount to much more than a skilled labor worker.  Yet so many have gone on to be great innovators, thinkers and leaders in our society.  A true testament I think to the argument that there is a difference between a learning disability and an intellectual disability.  Those with a learning disability have a struggle when it comes to how they learn, but that does not constitute limitation in how much they can or will learn.

I think back to the article from Fortune Magazine, The Dyslexic CEO.  Specifically I consider the story of John Chambers.  I almost wept with him as I read the story of his ‘coming out’ to his staff that he had a learning disability.  He had hidden it for so long, yet as he stood in front of 500 people and watched a little girl cry as her learning disability made it difficult for her to respond to him, he cast aside his fears of society’s opinions.  He not only put his reputation on the line, but took the opportunity to turn it into a teaching moment for someone that he stood a chance to help, perhaps like no other. And what an inspiration he must have been for her!  To have someone that so many admired accept and overcome a difference that so many frowned upon, who wouldn’t be inspired.

And yet the biggest ‘ah ha’ moment for me was truly when he explained his disability as an ability later on in the article.  His learning disability enabled him to view things in a ‘multiple-layer dimensional cycle and almost play it out in my mind.” (page 62)  So I wonder now, what gives anyone the right to say that those with differences in learning abilities should or shouldn’t be successful in life? For we acknowledge that individuals that have learning disabilities typically have a higher than average IQ; they only struggle to fit that IQ into the typical model that the average chooses to learn by.  But why not allow them to think outside of the box?  Why not attempt to understand their view a bit better?  For when we do experience the unique, do we often not find needed change?

As I stated at the conclusion of my paper regarding What Do They Know, we all have assumptions about something, no matter how right or wrong they may be.  But we may never question or change these assumptions until we are faced with a reason or opportunity to do so.  The opportunity to encounter someone with a learning disability is an experience that I hope all will have at one point or another.  Not to imply that they will be different and should be studied, in fact without being told the other person may never notice.  But instead because of the opportunity to learn about what so many may face, and to recognize how we can become better for understanding.

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About hdjackson

Graduate Student at Virginia Commonwealth University studying the theoretical world of Adult Learning along with its relation to Human Resources Developement. View all posts by hdjackson

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