“WHICH IS MY GOODLEG?” Cultural Communication of Persons with Disabilities
What is this study about andwhy? “Which is My Good Leg” attempts to bring to light the gap in communication between persons with disabilities and those without. It calls the audience to see the two groups as different cultures which apply different modes of communication. The purpose is to show how the two cultures can communicate more effectively.
What does the author do to studythis? Identifies communication problems between the two cultures Evaluates the weakness of previous studies of the same topic Researches through interviews Discusses what students and scholars can do to change the discomfort many feel while communicating with the other culture
What did the author find? – majorissues Stereotyping of persons with disabilities “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, pg. 210).” This is harmful to people with disabilities who “want the nondisabled person to treat them as a “person like anyone else,” rather than focus solely on their disability (Braithwaite, pg 211).”
What did the author find? – majorissues Uncertainty or discomfort while communicating Many nondisabled people are uncertain of how to communicate with people with disabilities because of a lack of experience. They don‟t know what to say or how to act and are typically afraid of hurting the person with disabilities‟ feelings. The behaviors that stem from this uncertainty make them appear to be un-accepting or uninterested in the person with disabilities. “Wishing to act in a way acceptable to those with disabilities, they may unknowingly act offensively, patronizing disabled people with unwanted sympathy (Braithwaite, pg 210).”
Why are those findingsimportant? If key areas of difficulty that tend to hinder communication between the two groups are pinpointed, it will be easier find a solution to the problem.
Taking the first step towardsresolution… Redefining what it means to have a disability is a huge step in smoothing communications. I love the following quote from an interviewee focused on disability awareness:“I will say to people, “How many of you made the clothes thatyou‟re wearing?” “How many of you grew the food that you ateyesterday?” “How many of you built the house that you live in?”Nobody raises their hand. Then after maybe five of those, I‟llsay, “And I bet you think you‟re independent.” And I‟ll say, “I‟ll beyou, if we could measure how independent you feel in your lifeversus how independent I feel in mine, then I would rate just ashigh as you do. And yet here I am „depending „ on people to getme dressed, undressed, on and of the john, ect. It‟s all in ourheads folks. Nobody is really independent.” I can see them kindof go “Yeah, I never thought of it that way.” and they begin tounderstand how it is that somebody living with this situation canfeel independent. That independence really is a feeling and anattitude. It‟s not a physical reality (Braithwaite, pg 214).”
The approach The authors based a lot of their research on interviews with individuals with disabilities and the language that is used to describe them which I see as the “interpretive approach.” At the same time, the power struggle of persons with disabilities is also very evident which shows the use of the “critical approach” as well. Definitions of each: Interpretive: emphasizes using languages to describe human behavior. Critical: analyzes the large power structures that guide every day life (Martin, 2010, pg. 52)
Food for thought? Are you uncomfortable when interacting with persons with disabilities? If so, do you try to overcome that discomfort? How? In what way can we make our communities more aware of communication practices that would not isolate those disabilities, leading to a more comfortable interaction for all?
Reference Braithwaite, Dawn & Braithwaite, Charles.(2009). "Which is My Good Leg?" In L. A. Samovar, R. E. Porter, E. R. McDaniel (Eds.), Intercultural communication: A Reader (12th Ed.) (pp. 207- 218). Boston: Wadsworth. Martin, J. N., & Nakayama, T. K. (2010). Intercultural Communication in Contexts, (5th ed.). McGraw-Hill.