Equality wanted

Now that various members of the university community have expressed their opinions concerning the Presidential Commission on Persons with Disabilities, I feel that it is my turn.

I have worked in the office of Services for Students with Disabilities since my freshman year. Now that I am a senior, I feel that almost four years of experience merits me the opportunity to voice my opinion concerning the ignorance that exists here at NIU regarding disabled individuals.

I have to admit, when I first came to NIU, I was one of the ignorant masses. Now after a few years, I’ve learned that you can have empathy and a compassion to help disabled individuals, but that isn’t always what they ask for.

And I completely disagree with George Shur’s statement, “I agree (having a disability) helps, but it’s not absolutely necessary to have firsthand knowledge about having a disability, there are others who have spouses, parents and children that also have sympathy.”

Sympathy is not what disabled individuals want and need. They are just like you and me, they want equality. If the controversy concerned any other minority group on campus, you would never get away with saying, “I agree that being an Asian-American helps, but I have a good friend who is Asian-American, therefore, I know everything firsthand about being Asian-American.”

I can use that example because I am an Asian-American, and I don’t think an Hispanic-American is treated the same way that I am, nor can they fully understand simply because they too are of a minority group. Mr. Shur, do you know “firsthand” about being a woman, just because you have a wife?

You can never truly know what kinds of struggles and obstacles that another individual faces. Yes, you can “have sympathy” as Mr. Shur points out.

But is that why the President created the Commission? Did he want to get a group of people together to have sympathy? Or was his intent to become more aware, as a university, about the needs of disabled individuals? Who better to make us aware, than those who do have firsthand knowledge.

No one is asking for disabled individuals to make up 100 percent of the membership. The most important thing is for the best-qualified people to be vital parts of the Commission.

Heather Russell