How to recognize, overcome biases about people with disabilities

As a teacher of children and people with severe disabilities, I constantly deal with the reality of other people's biases toward them. The following are suggestions:

Remember what Christ said in John 9:3: "Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him." I firmly believe that people are born with disabilities, not to punish [them], but to test how people without disabilities deal with them. We should ask ourselves, "Does our ward accept children and adults with disabilities or differences into everyday activities?" "Am I afraid of people with disabilities, or can I humble myself and learn to love someone, no matter what they look like or how they act?" "Do I exemplify pity toward people with disabilities, or do I learn about them and recognize that they are capable of learning and have unique abilities."

Learn about disabilities and/or good ways to teach people with disabilities. Recognize cultural differences, such as that many people who are deaf feel very differently about themselves and their abilities than you may feel about them. Take the initiative and learn to communicate with a person who has a disability.

Recognize that even people with the severest disabilities have feelings and know more than we ever give them credit for. Speak to the person who is disabled, not above them. Don't complete the sentences or thoughts of someone who stutters or who has a hard time communicating.

Learn how to speak or write of people with disabilities. This is not so you can be politically correct, but to give respect to those with disabilities.

Every experience I have had with people who are disabled has taught me that I am the one who needs to change how I feel, act or love, not they. How much better I am for loving them for who they are and learning how to teach my students appropriately. The works of God are truly made manifest in them to me, but only if I change myself to accept them. — Mary Pearson, West Jordan, Utah

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