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Disability awareness event draws support, skepticism

One of the most dominant reasons for the continuing unfair, marginalizing treatment of disabled persons in America is the lack of understanding and empathy that more able-bodied persons have for those with a debilitating condition. This disconnect, which often is most obvious between policymakers and everyday people, is at the root of access, benefits (such as Social Security Disability), and treatment faltering both here in Texas and across the nation.

One noteworthy university made an attempt at bridging some of this prevailing disconnect in empathy earlier this month, with mixed results. Clemson University again hosted what it calls "Walk & Roll in My Shoes," a day-long event in which campus faculty and administrators are given headphones, goggles, and physical apparatuses such as a wheelchair or walking boot and then paired with a disabled student.

Hoping to give school policymakers a glimpse of what it means to be disabled at the University, the event has drawn both praise and ire from those involved. Supporters noted that disabled students have frequently taken a great deal of initiative and reward in cooperating with Clemson's higher-ups during the awareness day. Administrators have also noted that many of the challenges Clemson's campus presents to disabled persons only became clear to them, and thus their decision-making agendas, after participating.

A number of disabled professors at the school have spoken out against the program, however, asserting that the Walk & Roll day encourages pity and oversimplification of disabled students and their obstacles. Those uneasy with the event instead suggested that faculty construct more formal disability studies courses or perhaps even a full-fledged minor in the program.

It appears that both camps at Clemson have valid points about the struggle to foster empathy and understanding of disabled persons' problems in society today. Sometimes strong, good-hearted ideals can have less than perfect practical results. This situation is also true for those in need of Social Security Disability benefits. However, with the help of a skilled attorney, these benefits and a more stable, less stressful life is attainable for those with a disability.

Source: Inside Higher Ed, "Disability Awareness Draws Scrutiny," Carl Straumsheim, Mar. 7, 2013

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