Harris leads conversation on disabilities

Tuesday, October 24, 2017 Harris leads conversation on disabilities

Richard Harris presents "Disability Humor: The Bridge Over the Discomfort Gap"to employees at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

On Friday, Oct. 27, more than 70 employees at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln participated in a professional development program on disabilities and interpersonal communication sponsored by Student Affairs. Presenter Richard Harris, retired director of student disability services at Ball State University, addressed common stereotypes through cartoons and led a discussion on how cartoons have brought disability issues to the mainstream.

Harris offered the following tips for working with individuals with disabilities:

  • Get to know people with disabilities as fellow human beings. When getting to know someone with a disability, lead a normal conversation. Simple small talk about weather or other common topics is ok.
  • Cut the staring out. Treat the person just as you would anyone else. He provided the example of a deaf person using an interpreter and encouraged individuals to look at the individual when they are speaking, not the interpreter.
  • If people use a term for their disability, use that term. It can be challenging to know what to call a disability, but following the person's lead may alleviate that stress.
  • If you offer to help someone, expect a simple "yes" or "no." Harris mentioned that sometimes people expect praise at how kind or helpful they are being to individuals with a disability. Or, conversely, they are not prepared for the refusal of assistance. He recommends lowering the expectation to a whether someone wants the help and respecting that response.

Ultimately, Harris suggests that people not take themselves too seriously. He reminded attendees that a light-hearted outlook and shared commonalities will help build relationships.

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Student Affairs Services for Students with Disabilities Diversity and Inclusion Professional Development