Putting People First!

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Workshop participants, PULSE and Field Band Education (Photo: Ingrid Thorstensen)

PULSE recently offered a Disability Awareness workshop to the FBF tutor teams from Parys/Vredefort, Kroonstad and Viljoenskroon, and we spent the day together talking about the topics of attitudes, barriers and language. The FBF tutors in the Free State have worked with inclusive bands (field bands including members living with disabilities) since as early as 2012, and it is great to see how much knowledge they have gained in these projects. They have also gained confidence in their ability to teach members living with a disability, and can now share their teaching strategies with each other.


”The good thing was that we were able to share our knowledge (…) and we were able to share our experiences that we face at our band.” – Workshop participant. (Photo: Tor Åge Schunemann)

During the workshop we explored attitudes, disability etiquette, and barriers that can help or hinder people living with disabilities from participating fully in society. These can be tricky waters to navigate, and sometimes we can offend someone or create barriers for people living with disabilities without even meaning to. By having an awareness of these issues, we can become more respectful towards each other in all our interactions.

”Sometimes when we did the activity you had to think a lot so that you know what you are saying.” – Workshop participant.  

The tutors learned about Assistive Technology, and how everyone uses it in some way during their lifetime. Assistive technology refers to items that can help you accomplish an everyday task, such as a cane for walking, or a hearing aid, or even a remote control. They also got to try their hand at developing some assistive technology using common household items. This was a lot of fun, and made everyone’s creativity work in fifth gear!

Exploring assistive technology (Photo: Tor Åge Schunemann & Odd-Erik Nordberg)

One of the most challenging topics, however, is the language that we use. One of the best ways to talk about disabilities is to use People First Language. People First Language means putting the person first and the disability second, because everyone is first and foremost a person, and everyone has so many different qualities. Think about it – we wouldn’t say ”the hatted man”, we would say ”the man with the hat”. And we wouldn’t say ”the glassed lady”, but we would say ”the lady with the glasses”. So why would we then say ”the autistic child”, when we should say ”the child with autism” instead? The autism doesn’t define them any more than it defines them to have brown hair, wear glasses, or have yellow shoes. We will keep practicing People First Language, and remind each other to use it. We don’t have to be perfect, but we have to keep trying!

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”I learned there’s openness in FBF staff to talk about these issues and willingness to learn and improve on a personal level.”  – Workshop participant. (Photo: Ingrid Thorstensen)

Written by Ingrid Thorstensen

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