Sensitivity to persons with disabilities


I am a volunteer member of the speakers’ bureau for the Minnesota Brain Injury Alliance. I and one other speaker were asked to present our stories at the University of Minnesota—Mankato campus to a classroom of students taking a class titled as above.

On one aspect of this class, I asked them: “Why does a college need to teach a class on sensitivity to persons with disabilities? On the other aspect, I applaud the instructor for recognizing the need to have such a class, and I applaud the students who selected the class for an education experience.

The students were absolutely wonderful. I presented the story of my life’s experience as a person with a disability. My fellow speaker told of his experiences as a person with a disability. I could see the wonderment in the eyes of the students as they listened to the two of us.

I am sure many of the students were amazed at the positive attitude of me and my fellow speaker. We told them that life is a challenge, but that does not make it bad.

The students asked about our daily life in the areas of work, play, family, neighbors, education, medical treatment, honor and respect. I requested the students get to know their bodies to prepare themselves for anything that could happen. I asked them to think about disability in a personal sense. What would they do if one day they were thrust into the culture of “persons with disabilities”?

I found the timing of this class to be right on point. A few weeks ago, I had a conversation with my wife about this topic. She told me one day that she sometimes forgets I have a disability. This is one of the ways temporarily able-bodied persons justify their inability to grasp the humanity in being a person with a disability.

I informed her that forgetting I have a disability is insensitive and disrespectful to me as a person. I explained the somewhat hidden aspects of my disability that make life a little difficult.

She had no idea of the minute daily things that occur to which I have adapted myself, to the best of my abilities, in order to make daily life appear “normal.” I told her that forgetting I have a disability leaves the reason for my existence out and I would not be here.


Tip of the day 

If you reside in a private residence with City of Minneapolis waste pick-up and you have a permanent or temporary mobility impairment that creates difficulty for you to move freely around, you do not have to make the trips to the alley or curb to dispose of trash and recycling.

You can call 612-673-2917, City of Minneapolis Solid Waste and Recycling, and request the orange square labels for your waste and recycling container. These labels allow one to place the containers close to their entry/exit door. The labels have to face the normal pick-up spot/alley for the property.

The label informs the waste pick-up crews to pick up and return the containers to the location selected. Of course, during our snow season the route to and from the containers has to be cleared for pick-up.


Kenneth Brown is a disability advocate and consultant. He welcomes reader responses to