Needs of disabled addressed

By Gloria Carr

Panelists on the President’s Commission on Persons with Disabilities expressed the need for more understanding and support from others Monday night.

“We must try to make others understand,” said Linn Sorge, coordinator of NIU Services for Students with Disabilities.

Sorge said there must be change and people should be actively supportive for the rights of the disabled. “Everyone speaking up will help us.”

The discussion, sponsored by the Affirmative Action Office, focused on experiences NIU faculty and students with disabilities have faced.

Sorge said the disability is the first thing people see. “People put the disability before the person—we are people first,” she said.

“We can still live a normal life like you. Just because a person has a disability that doesn’t mean they can’t function. We only have a limitation,” said Laticia Houston, an NIU graduate student and panelist.

Society often limits the disabled, said John Clogston, an NIU journalism professor with a physical disability.

Clogston said physical laws of segregation cause condescending attitudes, fear, misunderstanding and unfamiliarity.

“I hope we are at the end of years of separatism. I hope sessions like these show we are still people … we are all in this together,” he said.

Many myths regarding the disabled continue to be viewed as true. Steve Larew, a communicative disorders professor who is hearing impaired, said hearing aids do not necessarily help a hearing impaired person hear, nor does screaming into a hearing aid help either. “It just hurts your ear,” he said.

Houston said sighted people tend to think that since she can’t see, she can’t hear. Many people will address questions to her companions, she said.

The subject of how to approach a disabled person was also discussed. Sorge and Houston agreed a light touch on the hand to let a visually impaired person know you are present is acceptable.

Clogston said while maintaining eye contact is important, holding the door open for a physically disabled person depends on the individual.