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What would you look for in a school club related to disabilities? - August 13th 2017, 03:16 AM

Hey guys,

I am president of a club/organization in my school this upcoming school year. This club has a purpose of promoting awareness and acceptance of people with disabilities while letting people make friends, become confidence and grow socially and develop their skills and abilities. It's open to people with or without disabilities, so it helps people to connect with others of varying abilities and also learn about disabilities

So, what I would like to know from you guys is what you would want to see in a club or organization related to disabilities with the purpose listed above. I want to make sure the club is the best it can be and we do a good job at covering a lot of wants and needs. So, whether it's activities, an event, a discussion, etc that you would want to see if you were in a club like this, I really would like suggestions on what you think would be best to include!

One of our big worries is retaining members. I know this sounds bad, but a concern the club advisor has, and I agree with, is some of the people with disabilities in the club may come as a "shock" to someone who is able-bodied. For example, one of the members has cerebral palsy and is in a wheelchair and has a different speech pattern. Someone who has never experienced this before may be scared that they are going to do something wrong or say something wrong and stop coming. It's not necessarily a "hate" thing. And even people with disabilities, we want to make sure everyone knows they're welcome and has input. We want everyone to feel comfortable and also know that they can share ideas and opinions, and if there is something they want to do or learn about, we want them to know that they totally can tell us and we will try to work with them to make it happen if it's something feasible.

So, I'm just looking for some ideas that we can maybe start out with. I really, really want this club to keep going strong even after I graduate in December and I want everyone to get a lot out of it.
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Re: What would you look for in a school club related to disabilities? - August 13th 2017, 03:39 AM

I suggest some discussions about raising awareness on certain disabilities and opening up discussion on accessibility. I personally like clubs where I can learn and grow with people and make friends. You can have in depth discussions about the issues within and outside the disabled community. And to make sure everyone has a voice, make sure to have some rules always posted in the meeting room about respecting people and letting everyone speak. Make sure to make it known that no discrimination tolerated anywhere in the meetings or even outside the meetings. I feel, with this type of "sensitive" matter it's most important to let everyone know that your club is a safe space for everyone to be able to share their thoughts and feel welcome at all times.


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Re: What would you look for in a school club related to disabilities? - August 13th 2017, 02:33 PM

It doesn't all have to be focused on the disability piece. I have a friend with severe cerebral palsy who's mission in life is basically to prove that in most ways, she's just like everyone else. Plan some "typical" activities just like any other club does.

As for people being uncomfortable, it's definitely a concern. Most of the time it's from either a lack of exposure or a genuine curiosity where someone doesn't want to be rude. I would also worry about people joining out of pity or for the sake of their reputation rather than genuine interest.


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Re: What would you look for in a school club related to disabilities? - August 13th 2017, 05:06 PM

Hey Dez,

Over the last year I participated in the disability group at a local community center. It is a social club for people with developmental disabilities so it was pretty focused. Most people were on the autism spectrum. We did mostly social activties We also did other things like bake sales and fundraising and since we were the ages 18+ group, we volunteered at the holiday party for kids with special needs.

Something memorable was the annual self-advocacy conference that we went to. I feel like that's a good concept to incorporate somehow. I feel like a disability club would have a balance of education, support and socializing. Education would mean like building resources and information for those who want to learn more, those with family members who have a disability, how to support someone with a disability, how someone can cope with a new diagnosis and maybe like a list of organizations or something for those in need of resources for themselves. Support would be like sharing personal stories, listening to one another, and having peer to peer conversations that will also include those without disabilities. And socializing would be the fun part like chilling and stuff. These things can like overlap of course.
Disability can mean so many things-there's physical (chronic and short term), medical, psychiatric, developmental (including learning disabilities) and that's only one way to categorize it. But I do think that learning to become your own advocate is important for any disability type...
I would also say to have different ways a person can access information. Because disabilities can be so different, some people rely on audio, while others rely on subtitles, and some will learn much better with visuals.
I hope this makes sense :P Best of luck with this! I would be interested in hearing how things go over the year.
   
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Re: What would you look for in a school club related to disabilities? - August 13th 2017, 08:17 PM

As a person with various disabilities myself, I can't stress enough about these two things: AWARENESS and ACCESSIBILITY!

AWARENESS - Gather educational material on all the well-known disabilities, and this can be emotional, intellectual, developmental, physical... you name it, get information on it to share in your group. It's so important in my opinion for people to become aware that there's more than just blindness and someone who requires wheelchair. Deafness goes beyond that 30 db hearing level (oh, I have bad hearing... but you don't wear hearing aids...?) or intellectual disabilities... help shame words and prejudices, like retard or "spazzo" or any derogatory terms or misconceptions. Make it clear that these people (and they will be in your group from what I can tell) are just like everyone else. At the same time, though, don't single out the ones with disabilities or make it "privileged abled people" stuff. Make it inclusive and educational to everyone, even people with one disability may not understand other disabilities.

ACCESSIBILITY - personally, this mainly applies to deaf people or visually handicapped people. What are you going to do when someone can't hear the discussion or are unable to see the diagrams clearly? If you want people to feel included, this is definitely something to consider. Perhaps make 'friendly' accessibility options or give teaching exercises. My favorite saying from one of the deaf groups I am in on Facebook is this: "Anyone can become deaf, but not everyone can travel the world." and the gist is basically it's important to teach sign language in the classroom rather than just Spanish, French, etc.
   
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Re: What would you look for in a school club related to disabilities? - August 14th 2017, 02:51 AM

Both Kate and Iridescent brought up the points I would. I don't really have much to add to what Iridescent said. I can say that if I were to join a club pertaining to having disability I wouldn't want the whole entire thing to focus on the disability. I know, a good portion of it would, but I would also like there to be fun activities that we could all partake in. Those of us who are disabled have to deal with it every day so sometimes it is nice to be around people with disabilities and do fun things that don't center around the disability.


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Re: What would you look for in a school club related to disabilities? - August 14th 2017, 03:15 AM

I can also add that a lot of the education will come about naturally. Nothing makes you think about accessibility like having people in your life who depend on it. I follow a lot of youtubers with disabilities and chronic illnesses (which I know isn't the same thing) and the one friend I have with a severe disability who doesn't view it as a disability,and then being recently diagnosed myself. I'll find myself automatically noticing things like steps, hallway width, or braille or think "how would someone who is blind, deaf, uses a wheelchair etc." use this or come here or there?"

My friend posted on Facebook the other day how annoying it is for her when people leave their shopping carts (and motorcycles) in the handicapped parking spaces, so today when I saw a cart in the middle of the parking lot, I took it back to the store I was going into without even thinking about it.


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Re: What would you look for in a school club related to disabilities? - August 15th 2017, 07:50 AM

Thank you for doing this leading a club! That's a great idea!

Yes retaining enough members to keep the club going is an issue. I tried running a support group but the size dwindled until there was no one left. I think 4-6 is a minimum. I've also noticed above 10 the dynamics change.

Is this club primarily for people with physical disabilities? Or are mental disabilities also included? There's probably a lot of people who have mental issues, such as anxiety or depression, or even bipolar. Or maybe high functioning Asperger's. They may not even know it. But they yearn for a club where they'll fit in. They'll fit in because they'll all be socially awkward, but the group will help tremendously. Doesn't really matter what the group does, as long as they do it together and everyone is included.

Maybe find some guest lecturers who would be willing to come in and give a talk. Ordinary people have interesting lives to tell. Or maybe some ordinary person knows something about some topic related to the club. Just an idea.

Best wishes!
   
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Re: What would you look for in a school club related to disabilities? - August 17th 2017, 09:26 PM

Quote:
Is this club primarily for people with physical disabilities? Or are mental disabilities also included? There's probably a lot of people who have mental issues, such as anxiety or depression, or even bipolar. Or maybe high functioning Asperger's. They may not even know it. But they yearn for a club where they'll fit in. They'll fit in because they'll all be socially awkward, but the group will help tremendously. Doesn't really matter what the group does, as long as they do it together and everyone is included.
Anyone is welcome, technically diagnosed or not! I have anxiety and depression although I don't use the Disability Resource Center at school for it. We have people with Autism and Asperger's, Cerebral Palsy, auditory processing, hearing aids, and other things (we obviously aren't going to ask people the nature of their disability unless they want to share).


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Re: What would you look for in a school club related to disabilities? - August 17th 2017, 11:17 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by ~*Just Keep Swimming*~ View Post


Anyone is welcome, technically diagnosed or not! I have anxiety and depression although I don't use the Disability Resource Center at school for it. We have people with Autism and Asperger's, Cerebral Palsy, auditory processing, hearing aids, and other things (we obviously aren't going to ask people the nature of their disability unless they want to share).
Something that might work during some of the first few meetings is ice breaker activities. You'd have to find activities that are inclusive but one of the hardest things for me when going to any type of club is that I am unlikely to know the people. So, the ice breaker activity gives me the chance to talk and to learn about other people.


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Re: What would you look for in a school club related to disabilities? - August 18th 2017, 08:54 AM

Best wishes! I do hope this club idea works! Sounds like it could help a lot of people.

One suggestion to help keep order is to have some guidelines on how we expect people to behave which you go over at some time at every meeting. This can help when someone becomes unruly, as you'll have already established the guidelines and by repeating them at every meeting it helps establish them and then others will help out if someone gets out of line. Keep the guidelines short enough that it doesn't take up much time. Possible items to include are: Respect; Confidentiality; silence your cell phone; no direct advice giving (save it for after the meeting), however you can talk about your own experiences and what you did in a similar situation, which is sort of a sideways giving of advice, but it's not specifically presented as advice. (No "Shoulds"). No discussing Religion or Politics.

Just having people together is what makes it work. It really doesn't matter what people do or talk about, or what activity they participate in, as long as they are doing it together as a group. That's the secret. And listening. When someone talks, everyone else politely listens. No side conversations allowed when someone is talking.

I'm excited for your endeavor! Best wishes!
   
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Re: What would you look for in a school club related to disabilities? - August 27th 2017, 08:13 PM

Hey Dez!!
I agree with the above responses.
I would just like to add, try not to unintentionally focus on one type of disability. Be sure to have things be as diverse and inclusive as possible.
Also, as someone that is blind and so I cannot see powerpoint slides Etc. will you have a way to send the slides beforehand to anyone that needs to enlarge them or read them another way? Or if someone cannot write and there are activities with writing, how will that be handled?


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Re: What would you look for in a school club related to disabilities? - August 27th 2017, 10:20 PM

As far as "scaring off" members, I don't know exactly how you're trying to structure the meetings but maybe on the first meeting you could ask just what people knew about disabilities to start with, before getting into the education and awareness. People with disabilities could explain their own if they chose to and everyone could kind of get a feel for the room. If you opened a voluntary discussion for people to educate others on their disability upfront, maybe it would help ease some of that tension. That would also give the able-bodied people a chance to say, "Well I have a cousin who has such and such..." and probably be a more comfortable discussion that the whole room could participate in.


All in all, I don't think someone would join a club about disabilities without knowing something about what they're going to see. I'm also pretty sure this is a college club, so I doubt that someone who is joining a disability club - let alone, going to college - is going to struggle with being mature enough to handle the different ways that people act, look, and sound.
I think it's an awesome club idea and something that is definitely necessary!


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