Saturday, August 6, 2016

Learning Beyond the Eyes

*note: this blog is an entry from 7-19*

In this world, whether we can see it or not, there are people who are struggling because of an impairment of a major life function. The impairment itself is not the whole reason to the hardships they go through, but because of the way they become treated by the rest of society for having this impairment. This a major social justice issue that is going on today that many people are unaware about. Professor Hansen had introduced us to this topic today of disabilities along with our guest speakers of the day, Dr. Kelly George and Ms. Clare Mullaney.

Dr. George and Ms. Mullaney, had a PowerPoint open and ready to go once they had walked through the classroom doors along with a lesson plan for our entire class. Both ladies had strong energy in their voices along with passion for what they do to help bring justice to this group of people; I could tell this was about to be a lively session. These ladies started us off with explaining to us why disabilities are a social justice issue and what it is exactly. These groups of people often become exception to civil rights verses other groups of people and are treated unjust. The word “disabilities” holds multiple meanings to it.  People use it as a polite word, legislative term, to refer to someone as “different” or as a community of people. These people are often restricted to be known only for their disability and not who they are as a person. Many choose preference in being referred to as disabled people because it identifies them as a person but describes the disability as a part of them.

Slide From Dr. George and Ms. Mullaney's Presentation
As a way to get us to comprehend the information being delivered to us and so we don’t fall asleep on them. We were to define what it was to have a disability, an ability, and to be normal. In ten minutes my hand was flowing jotting down my own interpretations of what each of these were to me. I defined disability to be under represented. There are disadvantages to where people with these may not be able to perform the same way as others and also classifies them into a select group to where people deem them as helpless. They become treated in isolation from society or as if they’re fragile glasses that will break in one touch. For those with disabilities that are not physical, it’s hard finding the right attention or care for them. The main reason I chose under represented was because of my mom. She has back problems and a heart condition which prevents her from working or being eligible to find work with ease. She is fighting Social Security for aid that she needs but has not been able to receive. This is not fair representation from the government for the people like my mom; I’m sure that there are even more people out there who are fighting for similar reasons such as my mom.

I defined ability as an attribute or capability. People with ability have the privilege of having a functioning body system – mental, physical, emotional, etc. There are no restrictions to what you’re capable of doing as an average person. Your legs can help you walk, your eyes give you vision, your ears give you hearing, your mind or ability to learn is not obstructed by a condition; you have ability. Even without a 100% functioning system, you can still have ability. You may be capable of playing multiple instruments, or painting as if you were Picasso or Van Gough, or even having a voice as powerful as Whitney Houston; that is ability.

My definition of normal is versatile. Everything within the world is constantly changing including what is considered normal. Back in the 40’s it wouldn’t be normal to see a biracial child or couple, it wouldn’t be normal to see same sex couples, it wouldn’t be normal for women to be working; today, all these are something you could see almost anywhere and among society. Something normal is based on perspective, exposure, and the likeliness of seeing it. The Bay Area is a diverse place and an area that I feel has great acceptance for others. Coming to the East Coast, I have met many people with different views that I am not used to seeing and I would consider absurd but would be normal to them and the area that they come from.

"I Know" Imitation of Blind Writing
Ending our intriguing lesson, we returned back after we finished eating for our fieldtrip to a museum called, “Common Touch” that focuses on the history of the blind. Through walking and the subway ride, it took us about twenty minutes to get there. I was in awe as I observed my surroundings. We had crossed into the Gayborhood of Philadelphia and it looked the same as it did in the images as our previous guest speaker, Mike Krasulski. There were rainbow crossroads, underneath street signs, and flags throughout the streets. It was creative and beautiful to be in sight of.

Finally arriving at the Library Company, Common Touch Museum, we had turned into a small room where we were all seated in a circle. There were two speakers who reviewed to us about what disabilities was and what this museum was about. Having already learned this before we had left it seemed a bit redundant to have the same speech given to us. Instead, our two guides had discussed with us about life was like to be blind. Our particular focus was while competing in sports. If a track runner was blind, they would run with another person in front of them guiding them where to go. Because they are attached to one another, the movements that the person in front of them makes the blind person can feel. For example, when the person in front jumps over a curb or turns a corner, the vision impaired person can feel the turn or small leap.

Owl Created by Ms. Jayne
Our group was then led into another room with different displays protected in glass case barriers showing to us different forms in which the blind had learned. Everything in the exhibit was created by Theresa Jaynes, the museum founder. Not knowing the alphabet, the blind had learned to write their own version of it based off of what they imagined the structure of each letter within their mind. Ms. Jaynes had used large metal letters spelling out the phrase, “I know” and displayed some of the hand-written entries from blind people showing some examples of what their alphabet had appeared. To learn about the density of an object, they used large wooden shapes and figures and held it in their hands feeling its weight, shape, and size. On a small table in the corner of the room, laid several different objects where we were able to pick up and flee for ourselves. When they were taught about animals, they used their sense of touch to feel different animal figures to give them an idea of what each had looked like or features and characteristics each had. A papier-mâché owl was created with soft feather-like fabric along the exterior with a sharp wooden beak resembling how it would feel if one were to touch it.

My favorite part of the museum was guiding my eyes in the glass in a back room at the different passages of Braille. There were prayers in Braille plastered on the wall along with the braille alphabet and word contractions, along with books with three-dimensional letters, maps, and images. As I was reading along each display, Professor Hansen had pointed out in one of the labels that Braille was originally made and used in the military to send secret messages to and between stationed troops during the night or bases. Learning this gave me inspiration to want to learn braille on my own. It was soon time for us to depart this unique museum and back to the university. We thanked Ms. Jayne and our other guides and embarked our way back to our summer home. 

The Lord's Prayer Displayed in Braille 

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