There is certain social stigma individual with disabilities face on a daily basis. For the most part, this arises from people’s misunderstanding and lack of knowledge about people with disabilities. Many people do not understand disabled individuals are still people who deserve kindness, respect, and to be treated just like any other person.
Your organization can help increase disability awareness by holding an event that celebrates the differences that make people unique. The goal is not to generate pity for those who are disabled, but to teach tolerance, empathy, and acceptance.
For the event, you can ask disabled people in your community to come and share their story, share information about their condition, and share common misconceptions. Speakers can talk about how their disability does not prevent them from having a full life including a family, employment, and recreational activities.
You can also offer different activities for attendees that simulate living with a disability. The point of these activities is not to make fun of people with disabilities, but to help non-disabled people understand the daily challenges that must be faced and foster a new sense of respect. Some ideas include:
- Blind Maze-Blindfold people and have them navigate a maze. A blind person can act as their guide.
- Wheelchair Races-Have people navigate a series of obstacles while sitting in a wheelchair. Without standing or using their legs, they must open and close a door, go up a ramp, wind between cones, dunk a basketball, etc.
- Can you hear me now?-Set up a food station or mock theater booth. Participants must wear earplugs. Without using words or writing things down, they must indicate to the booth operator what they desire. The booth operator must speak low enough so they cannot be heard through the earplugs.
To make a lasting impression on attendees, give out bags with pamphlets on disabilities and national disability foundations. You can also include pencils, candy, and other printable items with “Celebrate Diversity: Disability Awareness Day” and the date imprinted on them. These are especially great for kids as they can take the pencils to school and reinforce your message.