Letter to the Editor: Adaptive Activities Not Appropriate

By Diana Buccafurni, Graduate Student, Philosophy


I am writing in response to Disability Awareness Week taking place from Nov. 12 through Nov. 16. I would first like to congratulate the coordinators, the Center for Disability Services, for putting together the week of events.

Creating heightened sensitivity and awareness regarding disabilities through such an event is commendable. Such awareness will hopefully create an understanding of the difficulties disabled persons might encounter. Having said this, I would like to also criticize the coordinators because one of the scheduled events is insensitive, if not cruel.

On Wednesday, Nov. 14, there was an adaptive activities event. Included in this event were the following activities: a wheelchair obstacle course, a sandwich assembly contest and a getting-dressed-in-the-morning relay.

As temporarily able-bodied persons, we can never empathize with persons who have disabilities. Having such contests, where temporarily able-bodied persons pretend to have a disability for a short time, maims the dignity of persons who do have genuine physical disabilities.

Participating in activities where one “feels” what it is like to have a particular disability might invoke sympathy or pity, but such feelings only exacerbate any discriminatory inclinations temporarily able bodied persons might harbor toward disabled persons.

Participating in such events trivializes the disability and maims the dignity of the disabled person.

If it turns out to be the case that a person who is temporarily able- bodied loses some physical function, becoming disabled, only then can empathy and increased awareness ever be invoked.

I hope that I have raised some concern about the appropriateness of such an activity. I hope that in future planning of Disability Awareness Week (which I fully endorse) planners and event participants will be more sensitive.

Diana Buccafurni, Graduate Student, Philosophy