As I mentioned in my last post, I'm taking one Special Education class while I'm over here (there weren't that many to choose from). Since the class meets once a week, I've only had two classes so far. However, I've learned a lot from just those two classes, along with some general observations I've made while over here.
Note: These are simply just observations followed by my own opinion.
I'll first start with what I've learned so far in my class. On the first day, I quickly picked up that the professor was using the term "disabled" to describe someone with a disability. If you're not familiar with person-first language, it is typically more appropriate to put the person before their disability. For example, it's more appropriate to say "a boy with Autism" rather than "an Autistic boy." This is to break the stereotype that a person is defined by their disability, which we know couldn't be further from the truth. That being said, there are some exceptions, such as with the Deaf community. I haven't quite figured out if using the term "disabled," is a generational thing, or a cultural one. I'll post in here once I have a better idea!
When the professor was going over our topics for a paper that was coming up, one student asked if they could write about a person they know with a mental disability, such as depression. What I learned from their conversation is that whether or not a mental illness can be classified as a disability seems to be a gray area here in Ireland. Many people chimed in, saying that it depends on the person. I found this conversation interesting, seeing that it's not much different than how we view mental disabilities in the United States. While a child may qualify for Special Education under the "Emotional Disturbance" category in the IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) if the mental disability is inhibiting their learning, mental illness is often viewed as an "invisible disability," and often goes unnoticed.
The next class led by a guest lecturer, who worked with Deaf students. She had a lot of experience in this field, and provided a lot of history on the treatment of Deaf people in Ireland. She said that after the World War II, people were afraid of those who were "different." Because of this, people started putting hearing aids on Deaf people so they could speak. Prior to this, Deaf people were taught using Irish Sign Language. After this movement, though, many Deaf students were forbidden of using Sign in the classroom, and were forced to communicate orally only. This guest lecturer said that in the 1980s, the principal of the school she was working in told her to threaten to tie the students' hands if they used Sign instead of speaking. This woman also said that when she started working with Deaf students, she didn't know any Sign at all, because of this anti-Sign movement. I found this very interesting, because while I'm not an expert in the treatment of Deaf people throughout history, I'm pretty sure the United States has a similar history. (If you know more about this, please feel free to leave your input in the comments!)
Now, for my general observations in the community. First, I kept on seeing these guide dog statues everywhere, such as in the bus station or the post office.
If you look closely on the head of the smaller dog, there is a coin slot. I'm assuming that the money goes to fund the training of guide dogs for the Blind, due to the extreme cost of them. The website for that organization if here: http://www.guidedogs.ie/iopen24/
Since coming to Ireland, I've done all of my grocery shopping at the same place: Tesco. Maybe it's because of the convenience, or many it's because they are constantly giving back to the community, I'm not sure. I just keep on finding myself back at this same store. That being said, at one of the (many) Tescos I've been to, I saw this sign.
I know we also have disability accessible parking in the United States, but I liked the little blurb that they put on the sign as well. (Here, we see the term "disabled" used again) Also, Tesco has a contest each month, and the charity the receives the most tokens at the end of the month receives a monetary donation from the company. As you can see, the Irish Dogs for the Disabled (again) are winning! It is a different organization than the one I talked about before, but still an awesome one! (https://dogsfordisabled.ie/)
Now, here is the interesting one. I saw this sign in the bathroom of a pub I went to.
Alright, I'm sure there was a good intention behind this. Drinking and driving is bad, and could have a serious consequence, such as a serious, permanent injury or even death. However, I get an uneasy feeling about this sign. I feel that it gives the connotation that having a disability is the worst thing that could happen to someone. Does anyone else feel the same way?
PHEW! This was a long post! If you've made it this far, give yourself a high five. I really appreciate all of the support, everyone! I promise I won't go that long without posting again.
Until next time,
P.S. Totally unrelated to my research, but here are some awesome pictures I took this past weekend at the Ring of Kerry.