Like You and Me, Different But Not Disabled: Eliminating Handicappism.


  • Alex M. Branwen


The video and instructional guide, Like You and Me, Different But Not Disabled: Eliminating Handicappism is an exceptional informational resource for any person or professional who works with persons with disabilities. This video can also serve as an effective instructional tool for students entering the health care professions. Perhaps the best audience for Stanatand Gray's work might be the "powers that be" in this society that create and enact legislation that affects persons with disabilities; or better yet, the majority of our population who do not recognize the existence of "handicappism". The video begins with a brief discussion of"handicappism" and the sources of such. Dr. Stanat points out that "handicappism", like other "isms" present in our world, is the result of misunderstanding and non-understanding. It is not an individual's illness or disorder that is disabling, but rather the forces of"handicappism", the negative and fearful attitudes, values and beliefs in society. Stanat and Gray interview nine persons with physical disabilities. The topics discussed cover a wide range, consisting of: Personal Identity and Philosophy; Attitudes; Daily Routine; Independent Living; Architectural Barriers; Advocacy and Legislation; Technology; Employment; Recreation; Body Image,Congenital vs. Traumatic; Frlends, Family and Intimacy; Fears, Life and Death; and What Would Make Life Better. The nine persons interviewed provide thoughtful and open responses indicating a wide variety of differences-a wide variety of human-ness. Responses to questions concerning topics where a sense of"personal control"exists (such as daily routine, personal identity or fears) clearly illustrate that each individual has his or her own way of dealing with such. Don't we all! My daily routine may consist of a thirty minute rush to shower, dress and grab my bag as I fly out the door. My roommate, on the other hand, may allow herself two hours to ready herself for the day. We are all individuals with our own unique ways of living life. Responses to topics where there is more ofa sense of"societal control" (such as architectural barriers, legislation or employment) paint scenarios that may prove difficult for persons with disabilities, but likewise, any person can find themself in a frustrating position when attempting to scale the established walls of society. Our society has constructed its ideal of the "perfect person" -a white, physically fit, able-bodied, business-wise, financially successful, traditional family man. An image which is definitely not representative of the American population. An individual in a wheelchair must deal with 'inaccessibility of sidewalk curbs, stairways and buildings in general. Likewise, an individual who is overweight must deal with the inaccessibility of small aisles, narrow restroom stalls and chairs with arms that win not accommodate their size. It is unfortunate that the scope ofthe face and substance ofour society is so narrow, while the population that comprises it is so broad and diverse. The strength ofthis video is its "real" portrayal ofpersons with physical disabilities as the persons they are. Different? Yes, like every unique individual in this world; yet the same, with common values, needs, wants, attitudes and beliefs. The instructional guide provides useful suggestions and probing questions to challenge viewers' ideas and beliefs. The issue of recognizing and dealing with the damaging effects of "handicappism" is very well presented. It would have been interesting to have included individuals with "hidden" disabilities to further illustrate the "sameness" of our differences. In a perfect world, videos and instructional material such as Stanat and Gray's would not be necessary. But. . . since that day is far from a speck on the horizon, such informational tools are indeed necessary to assist in the ongoing battle of correcting misperceptions and educating society as a whole about the "sameness'" of all persons in society. As human beings it is our responsibility to work to eliminate all the "isms" that are running rampant in our world. Ofthe growing list of"isms", "handicappism" may very well be one ofthe most invisible. As therapeutic recreators, it is imperative that we continue to strive to educate and inform society about individuals with disabilities in efforts to eliminate the damage caused by, and the existence of, "handicappism". One of the men interviewed in the video, sums up this entire situation very nicely. He reminds us all that the class of persons with disabilities is the only minority class in this society that anyone, at anytime can become a member of. Certainly something to think about.



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