Special Needs Information Troop Meetings Main Event

Related Advancement

What are disabilities? A disability is a physical or mental condition that calls for a person to make adaptations to perform tasks that may come naturally to others. Disabilities don’t always answer a yes-or-no question. They come in all sizes, shapes, and forms, just like the people who have them.

Special Needs 1Consider visual impairment. A person could be totally blind, legally blind (testing 20/200 or worse in their better eye, even with glasses), or blind in one eye but not the other, or have tunnel vision. They could also have a condition that makes it difficult to see at night or impossible to distinguish between colors like red and green. Then there are those people who have good vision with glasses but can barely see without them. Would you consider them disabled?

Experts use the term spectrum to talk about some conditions, like autism. At one end of the spectrum are people whose ability to function is clearly affected by their condition. At the other end of the spectrum are people who don’t appear to have any obvious challenges. For example, an individual who is deaf in one ear may appear to not have a disability. One way to think about disabilities is that we all fall somewhere on that spectrum for one disability or another.

Specific Disabilities – If you already know something about a specific disability, or you would like to learn more about it, you may want to focus on researching and sharing information about that disability and the people who have it. You may choose to give a talk or volunteer with an advocacy program that focuses on the disability of interest. Here are some possibilities.

  • Amputation
  • Arthritis
  • Asthma
  • Attention-deficit/
    hyperactivity disorder
  • Autism spectrum
  • Blindness/low vision
  • Brain injury
  • Cerebral palsy
  • Cleft palate
  • Cystic fibrosis
  • Diabetes
  • Down syndrome
  • Dwarfism
  • Epilepsy
  • Hearing loss
  • Heart conditions
  • Hemophilia
  • Learning disabilities
  • Leukemia
  • Mental disabilities
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Muscular dystrophy
  • Paralysis
  • Polio/post-polio
  • Sickle-cell anemia
  • Speech impairments
  • Spina bifida
  • Spinal cord injury
  • Stroke

Special Needs 2Using Person-First Language – You have probably heard the old saying, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” But the fact is that words can hurt.

When you describe a person who is disabled, it is important to put the person first. Instead of saying “the blind kid,” say “the kid who is blind.” That shows that the person is more than their disabilities.

Most people prefer the term disabled to handicapped. Just because someone has a disability doesn’t mean they can’t accomplish things, which the word handicapped implies. In fact, many people with disabilities view themselves as “differently able” rather than as having a disability.

Avoid negative phrases like wheelchair-bound. Unless someone is literally strapped in—not very likely—that term isn’t accurate. It certainly doesn’t apply when a person who uses a wheelchair hoists themselves from their chair to their car so they can drive to work or to basketball practice.

Adaptive SportsAdaptive Sports – Just because a person has a disability doesn’t mean he or she can’t compete in various sports. Just about every sport you can think of has been adapted for people with disabilities. People with disabilities are as likely to play sports for fun as anyone else. They may be fierce competitors, too. Special Olympics serves children and adults with intellectual disabilities, the Paralympic Games involve athletes with a range of physical and intellectual disabilities, and the Warrior Games feature competition among wounded, ill, and injured members of the armed forces. There is even a Deaflympic for people with hearing loss.

Accessibility – Curbs or steps without ramps, narrow doorways and aisles, revolving doors and turnstiles, high counters, tight parking spaces with no room to maneuver a wheelchair—any of these can make it impossible for people with disabilities to take part in everyday activities such as shopping in a store, watching a movie in a theater, eating at a restaurant, or even going to school or work. Next time you are in a public place, look at how accessible (usable) the location is for people with disabilities. Are there:

  • Special Needs 3Ramps and curbs made for wheelchair users?
  • Steps that are low and wide enough to be easily climbed by people using crutches or canes?
  • Wide doorways and aisles?
  • Elevators?
  • Signs and directions printed in Braille?
  • Visual warning alarm systems and lighted call numbers for lines for people who are deaf?
  • Accessible parking spaces wide enough for wheelchairs?
  • Accessible restrooms, public telephones, and drinking fountains?
  • Tables high enough for a wheelchair user to sit at without banging his or her knees?

Many accommodations help everyone, not just people with disabilities. For example, ramps are helpful for people pushing strollers or pulling wheeled luggage.

Resources and References

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Special Needs Information Troop Meetings Main Event