“Which is my Good Leg?”Cultural Communication of Person‟s with Disabilities A SUMMARY BY: AMY REINICHE
Study Objective This study was done to help individuals understand the way communication can be held between nondisabled and disabled people. Often times, people are put into a situation when they don‟t know how to communicate with those who are disabled. This study allows the audience to understand the culture of those who are disabled, and how to be effective communicators between the culture of those disabled, and those who are not.
Method and Process Braithwaite, the author, begins the study with identifying that there are different cultures between those disabled and those who are not. The author proceeds to recall different situations by having done interviews, furthering his research about the lack of effective communication between the different cultures. Finally, Braithwaite proceeds with the study to help find solutions to help make communication more effective, using students and fellow scholars on the subject.
Findings… One key part of the research was what Braithwaite defined as “redefinition”. This was an important “find” because it gave more meaning to the rest of the study. “A central theme emerging from the interviews is what we call redefinition; that is, people who are disabled critique the prevailing stereotypes about being disabled, they create new ways of perceiving themselves and their disability, and they develop ways of communicating as a result. We were able to see three types of redefinition: (a) redefining the self as part of a “new” culture, (b) redefining the concept of disability, and (c) redefining disability for the dominant culture” (Braithwaite 212).
Findings… 30% of the interviewers received disability-related communicating training (Braithwaite 216). People with disabilities refer to themselves as their own culture, offering to help others learn to communicate with those that are not disabled (Braithwaite 216). Based on earlier research, people with disabilities would focus on the goal of “unfreezing old attitudes about disability, and refreezing new ones” (Braithwaite 216).
Significance These multiple findings come with great significance because they each offer ways to understand the culture of those who are disabled. It is important to understand how to communicate with disabled people because we need to let go of stereotypes that tell a different story of disabled people. “For example, they often perceive them as dependent, socially introverted, emotionally unstable, depressed, hypersensitive, and easily offended, especially with regard to their disability. In addition, disabled people are often presumed to differ from nondisabled people in moral character, social skills, and political orientation (Braithwaite 210).”
Significance… Once we understand that stereotypes are not the right perception, we can begin to learn how to communicate, and realize that those with disabilities are just like those without disabilities. “They want the nondisabled person to treat them as a „person like anyone else‟ rather than focus solely on their disability” (Braithwaite 211).
Approach There were two different approaches used in this study: Interpretive Approach The researcher used this approach by interacting with those who interviewed. The author/researcher also participated heavily in this study, portraying a form of truth that often gets overlooked: anyone can communicate with disabled people– they are no different than the rest of us when it comes to effective communication. Critical Approach This approach was used because the researcher was really stressing the importance of learning to communicate with the disabled culture. The researcher also wanted to try and find as many solutions as possible to help make this effort a stronger approach.
Quotes Braithwaite wrote on page 213, “When taking a cultural view, it is important to recognize that not everyone comes to the culture the same way. Some people are born with disabilities, and others acquire them later”. This quote was a wake-up call for me. I never really put much thought to the fact that people with disabilities refer to themselves as a culture. But with this quote, it makes me think about how I am going to interact with that culture. Just because we may not be a disabled person doesn‟t mean that those who are disabled are any different than myself. There is no reason for me to feel any different, or better enough, to not effectively communicate with them.
-Just a Side Note- One of my best friends is Albino and legally blind. She looks different than the rest of us, and she can only see if she wears her glasses. She has Rapid Eye Movement, so her eyes constantly move. I have never, ever looked at her any different than me. In all honesty, she does more than I ever do. She does not let her disabilities hinder her from doing her own thing. She is super trendy, very independent, and will travel around the country via public transportation. She does it to “see” the country. On top of that, she is an event planner for a casino in her current hometown. She does not let anything about her disability hinder her, and I admire her greatly. I use to be super defensive if people made fun of her “weirdness”, but she would just laugh. I remember her saying, “Don‟t worry about them… One day they will be working for me.” The thing is, they probably will!! She had a great attitude, and she taught me things about her disabilities. I very much admire my best friend!
Quotes “Most people with disabilities we have encountered view themselves as public educators on disability issues. People told stories about taking time to educate children and adults on what it means to be disabled. They are actively working to change the view of themselves as helpless, ill, or as victims, and the ensuing treatment such a view brings” (Braithwaite 215). This quote is so meaningful to me because there is no better way to educate oneself than to learn from the “masters” themselves. If those who are disabled are willing to teach others about the disability and how to communicate, then that is a class worth taking. I think it is so important to understand that people with disabilities are not helpless, ill, or even victims. Just like the last quote says, some people are born with disabilities, and others acquire them in life. It is best to be prepared and educated. It will be worth it.
Food for Thought Do you know anyone with disabilities? If so, do you ever think of them as a part of a different culture, or not give any thought about it? If not, do you think communicating with them would be difficult for you? With this kind of study, do you believe that those with disabilities are the best educators, or would it be better to learn from scholars and medical experts, who have done scientific research on the matter? How can we make a difference to the people around us, and communicate that interaction is important for learning?
Reference Braithwaite, Dawn & Braithwaite, Charles.(2009). "Which is My Good Leg (pp. 207- 217).