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Well, some days ago, I found myself particularly bored and decided that Youtube would be my source of entertainment. I pondered on the possible causes of my boredom and somewhat attributed it to the troubles of becoming a real adult ( someone who has passed the young adult stage and is about to take on the world). Well, I decided that maybe, regression could be used as a coping strategy and decided to watch the theme songs of all my favourite cartoons back in the day. I was having a great time singing to Popeye, Thunder Cats and Silver Hawk! It was during this fun session, that Youtube suggested that I watch Wayne Head.

“Hey, Oh, Hey, Oh!”, was the most profound memory I had of this cartoon and remembered waking up early on Saturday mornings to watch it. My present brain, for some reason, cannot really see what I liked about it so much. The graphics were poor and for some reason it reminded me of Hey Arnold. Maybe all I liked was the theme song, but then I noticed something. Wayne Head had a ‘peg leg’, he lived in the projects on one of the higher levels, he had pointy ears and looked like the prime target to be bullied; even though this seemed terrible, Wayne Head was happy and this cartoon showed the lighter side of living with disabilities.

I wanted to write about this rather sensitive topic, but the time had to be right! I was at work when my aunt  called me and gave me some rather unpleasant news. She informed me that my Grandma, who is as hyperactive as I am and who loves riding her bicycle at 70 odd years- broke her leg. It made me sad. It was shortly after that my boss told me that she would like to cover the topic of disabilities at the next workshop.

Now, I definitely had something to write! So I thought about it and I decided to give the kids an activity to teach them about disabilities, then I’d explain anything I thought they had missed- but it seems that I learned a few things too and I really wanna share them with you.

The Game

For this game I used a blindfold, pen, piece of paper, chair and a piece of stick. Well, I randomly picked two volunteers and asked one to volunteer to lead. The follower was then blindfolded and given a task. The blindfolded person was required to walk from their present location, jump over the stick, go around the chair twice, retrieve the pen and paper, go back to the chair and draw a smiley face. They had to do this with the help of the leader, who would only give auditory instructions in the way that he or she felt was best.

The first group had me laughing, as the instructions had mostly lefts and rights in them, but the leader had a hard time deciphering which was which. Telling the blindfolded person to turn, was also another challenge in itself. The jumping for most of the groups was the hardest step for some persons as  they did not fully trust their partners and one girl even started crying at this point. However, she managed to jump, after hearing a few encouraging words from her leader. Going around the chair was not so bad for some groups, neither was getting the pen and paper. Well the smiley faces had me smile because I chose to use both sides of the sheet of paper and somehow, some of these kids manage to get their drawings interspersed… and trust me… the faces never looked like this 🙂

I am glad the game was interactive and the kids had fun. The onlookers often laughed at things they thought funny and made sounds which I thought helped the blindfolded person. I told you there were some stuff I learned… So here they are:

1. It Could Be You In A Second! I Randomly chose the students and everyone had a equal chance to be chosen. It is the same with having a disability, some persons are born with it and some get it through lifestyle activities or some genetic predisposition. Sometimes we often think about disabilities in isolation to our everyday activities. My grandmother who is very Independent and fast moving, once told me she wouldn’t manage if she could do anything by herself. I guess she is managing at the moment with support from her family. Even temporary disabilities can take a toll on our mental health and they can happen at any age and stage in life, so be kind to others and be thankful.

2. Able Bodied People Got A Jump Start In The Race So, I asked the kids if the challenge was a difficult one and the unanimous response was, not really. So I asked a few to explain and they told me that if they weren’t blindfolded it would be an easy task. But since they could not see or have any real aid to get around- it proved difficult. It shows us that as able bodied persons, we actually got a jump start in the race, as persons living with disabilities are often required to carry out the same tasks as us, but technically, we have been given a jump start.

3. I Trust You, Kind Stranger In Erikson’s stages of development, Trust vs Mistrust is the first and most important aspect to our existence and human development. It is argued that when we develop trust, we have gained the productive and better trait of the two, which aids in leading a more successful life. In times where things are very serious, I think mistrust is a more realistic option, as it helps us to decipher danger readily and ensures survival. I think mistrust is the trait most of us took, as we find it difficult to trust people, even our own. Persons with some physical disabilities and even visual impairment have to trust people in order to get through a regular day… and guess what? These people are usually strangers. Imagine having to ask a 5 year old for help to cross the street? In a ten second walk across the road, maybe about 5 fervent prayers went up, begging God for a safe journey across. Maybe trust is the better way after all, as these persons tend to be very optimistic and manage to get a lot done.

4. I Can Do This and So Can You!  I was very overjoyed when I went to University and realized that there was a population of visually impaired students. In my parish, children with visual impairment had to go to schools outside the parish, and if they wanted quality education – they had to go to town. I usually leave my assignments for the last minute and would rely on adrenaline to be my motivating factor to finish them. My friend Shavane, would start weeks ahead. He was blind and he told me that since he is heavily dependent on people to help, the earlier one starts getting the material and starting the tasks, allows for time to do it properly and on time. He inspired me and even prompted me to be more helpful to persons living with disabilities. When I was about nine years old, we had to learn multiplication tables and I hated them! I tried to convince Mommy that I was allergic to Math, but she wouldn’t have it. There was this young lady in my district you had met an accident and after the doctors went in her brain to save her life… I guess they misplaced a couple of her screws. I must say, it seems one good thing came out of it, as she earned some savant capabilities.  She could do multiplication tables from one to a million… nonstop! She taught me a technique which I still use til this day. I always admire my young mentees at the Hope Valley Experimental School. The children with physical challenges get involved in sports and as much physical activities as their able bodied counterparts. They inspire me to be active, be happy, be prepared and most of all be thankful.

5. We Become Better Advocates When We Know What It Feels Like In the game, I noticed a few students stood afar off and gave instructions to their follower. Turn left, turn right, come straight, were the instructions being thrown out and sometimes the follower would be turning in a circle and looking quite confused. The ones who stood afar off, took an average 10 minutes to complete the game. It was at my second workshop that a young lady assumed the position her blindfolded counterpart had and she started making sounds like, ba, ba, ba ba, babababa and I was quite confused. To my surprise, they were moving like electric! She said to the young man, “I’m with you, right beside you, follow my voice and you’ll be fine.” It seemed to  have calmed him and he was making sure steps, because the person leading was in a similar position as he was. Rights and left were not a problem as his left and her left was the same and when she went in front, her voice was his guide. What I learned from this was that when you know how it feels, you become a better spokesperson, a better advocate for the cause. The challenges faced, become more evident. My parting words with them was that they should should imagine themselves in that situation for a day. Think about the things they would normally do and how that disability would affect them. After that, they would more appreciative of what they had and  be more helpful and sensitive to others who are not as able as themselves.

Think about it.. Savants show us that despite disabilities, one can still be extraordinary. So next time you meet someone with a disability, just be kind in your speech and non verbal gestures. They do not seek pity, just respect and the opportunity to have an impact.

Like Waynehead, even with challenges in our lives that are ever present, we can make the best of the situations and remain positive 🙂