What image comes into your mind when you think of a 'disabled person'?
Some people think of Tani Grey-Thompson and Olympic medals.
Some people think of a person who has been injured in a car accident.
Others think of an older person, struggling to hear what is being said.
Some think of David Blunkett and his guide dog.
Some think of someone just looking 'ordinary'.
Have you formed a single image of a disabled person? Is there one image?
Disabled people are as diverse as non-disabled people. Attaching a label such as 'blind' or 'agoraphobic' to a group of people does not mean that they are all the same, any more than suggesting that all brown-eyed people are alike.
Make no assumptions about the impact of a student's condition on their learning, but ask them what they need to assist them to learn. Also ask them what they want the rest of the group to know, and if they can tell the group that at the outset. This allows everyone to adjust their behaviour at the start.
Images of disability shouldn’t just rely on the obvious depictions of wheelchair users and partially sighted people with white sticks.
The wheelchair logo is instantly recognised as a very obvious symbol of disability. This is despite the fact that the majority of people with mobility and dexterity difficulties do not use a wheelchair: their disability may be hidden.
If you want to see what physical tests disabled people can undertake, look at the BBC's record of the Beyond Boundaries expedition.
The British Film Institute (BFI), in its online resource 'Disabling imagery? - A teaching guide to disability and moving image media' identifies ten traditional views of disabled people and provides examples from film. Note how negative these are.
Stereotypes are disempowering and demeaning. Disabled people have traditionally been segregated from non-disabled people, in institutions and special schools, so it is not surprising therefore that these stereotypes persist. Most non-disabled people have a limited experience of working, living and being educated alongside disabled people.
Disabled people are often still portrayed in the media in ways that tend to reinforce negative stereotypes. They are almost exclusively referred to in terms of their disability – frequently as objects of pity or as being ‘plucky’ or ‘brave’.
Educational communities provide an important opportunity to challenge these negative assumptions at an institutional level and to develop a culture that is inclusive while recognising and valuing diversity.