When children with disabilities are excluded from participation in ordinary environments, children without disabilities have no opportunities to get to know them, to see them as their peers/equals, and/or to see beyond the disability. Thus, they’re ignorant that children with disabilities are children, first, and are more like them than different.
What are the consequences of segregation? Segregation can certainly harm children with disabilities (per other articles described later). But it can also cause negative consequences for children and adults without disabilities and our society-at-large.
Experiences during our recent family vacation provide a good illustration. We headed off for a two-week driving trip to visit presidential museums (a passion of our son, Benjamin) in different cities, then on to museums and memorial sites in Washington, DC. All was well: great weather and light crowds at presidential museums in May.
Things changed, however, when we arrived in DC. The weather was still great, but huge crowds were everywhere, composed primarily of middle-school tour groups, herded here-and-there by their teachers/chaperones. Making our way was sometimes difficult, as Benjamin carefully maneuvered his power wheelchair through the crowds. We could handle that. What was more difficult to deal with was the behavior of thousands of middle-school students and their teachers.
Most stared bug-eyed at Benjamin, and some whispered to each other as he passed by. Many displayed exaggerated responses as Benjamin tried to get from here to there: some students gave him an extremely wide berth (urged on by loud exhortations from their teachers) and made a “big deal” of moving out of the way, as if Benj had a communicable disease. Click here to continue.
Consequences of Segregation
New Ways of Thinking and Revolutionary Common Sense