Tuesday, May 5, 2009

What we owe to the Wheelchair.

Eric Wolf is a Storyteller and you can read more about his work at http://www.ericwolf.org

It is tempting to think that Dyslexic students are not handicapped. After all they don’t look any different then other students in the public schools. So it is natural to just think of them as kids who need more time to do their homework. That is if we forget the lesson of the wheelchair.

A wheelchair is obvious and the steps in front of the building are just as obvious. If there is no elevator or ramps to gain access to a building - then by definition the building is not accessible to the handicapped. There are still a disturbing number of building that are not accessible to a wheelchair bound person in America today and this lack of access is physically defined and powerfully self-evident.

Dyslexic students also need help getting past own set of “steps”. They need help making school accessible if they are to participate. This is true whether or not you can see the steps that block them from successfully accessing the public school system.

For some students that may mean having a teacher’s assistant in the classroom to help them with their reading assignment. For other students that may mean allowing the dyslexic student more time to read or perhaps giving them a shorter spelling list for spelling tests. For other students them may mean not posting the results of test in a public setting or having grades define the classroom experience of the student.

Of course it is critical that dyslexic students and all learning disabled students be treated as mainstream students and allowed access to regular recess and nonacademic activities. How many parents have been told – you son or daughter is dyslexic so we held hum back form recess to give them more reading lessons? Would we hold back a semi-blind child to study reading as well during recess? How about short child to grow faster?

The lesson of the Wheelchair is that handicapped access is structurally a part of modern society and that when access is not provided the barrier of the student to participate successfully in the activity is defined before the event starts. Thus the success or failure of dyslexic student in a school setting has more to do with the school then the student.

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