Do perceptions matter?
Page 3: Cultural-Based Perceptions
Among the major factors shaping our beliefs and attitudes about disabilities are our own cultural backgrounds and experiences. And just as our culture influences the way we think about technology, food, religion, and family, so also can it inform how we regard disabilities. For example, depending on your cultural background, you might perceive a disability to be:
- A blessing. The person with the disability possesses unique gifts that contribute to the family or community.
- Something to be addressed through medical or educational interventions. A disability is a potential barrier than can be mitigated or overcome through various means.
- A curse. The disability is a punishment on the family for any number of violations or transgressions.
The strength of a family’s cultural beliefs affect how they treat a family member with a disability. Some people with disabilities face little bias or discrimination, while others may be shunned or excluded.
In her poem “Ursa Minor,” Jody Barnes writes about her perceptions of her son Alex. As you read it, consider whether Jody, who is Native American, has a similar or different perception of disability than the teachers and doctors who work with her son. When you are ready, complete the activity below (time: 2:31).
As you reflect on the poem you just read, take a moment to independently answer the questions below.
- What do you think is Jody Barnes’s perception of disability? What do you think the teachers’ and doctors’ perceptions are? Explain your answers.
- How would you feel if you had a child born with a disability? Do you think your cultural background influences your views of disability? Explain your answers.
- What is Jody Barnes’s message?
Meet with a small group of classmates or colleagues. Take turns sharing your responses to the questions above, including the impact of cultural beliefs.
- Are your cultural beliefs and experiences similar to or different from the others in your group? In what ways?
- What else did you learn from your classmates or colleagues that could be beneficial to you as a teacher working with students with disabilities? When working with parents?