I know I said that my next post will be on sex and relationships — please be patient, I’m still working on it! However, I came across this article online from The Independent [Ireland] newspaper and I thought I’d share my views on simulation exercises and disability. I wrote the following as an essay assignment in university in 1998 — I reproduce it here, as although it is twenty three years old, it is still very much relevant today:
‘Simulation exercises’ in disability awareness training sessions.
These exercises reinforce rather than expose the limitations of conventional individualistic approaches to disability.
Simulation exercises are commonly used in colleges, also by professional bodies who have regular contact with disabled people — such as social workers, physiotherapists etcetera and by organisations which are ostensibly run for disabled people (often just for a single impairment group) rather than by disabled people, such as the charities e.g. the ‘Royal National Institute for the Blind’ [R.N.I.B.] and ‘Scope’ [formerly ‘The Spastics Society’].
The supposed rationale for these exercises is to give awareness to non-disabled people of what it is like to be ‘disabled’ by say, sitting and manoeuvring oneself in a wheelchair for a couple of hours or wearing an eye patch or a blindfold to get an ‘understanding’ of being visually impaired.
Many trainers [invariably they are non-disabled themselves] who adopt these practises often argue that simulation exercises are valuable and beneficial in raising awareness to the non-disabled participants of the ‘problems’ with which disabled people face on a daily basis. Many disabled people however argue that these exercises are completely superficial as they are only concerned with one singular aspect of disability i.e. one specific impairment and thus they do not go to anywhere near a complete understanding as to how a disabled person lives, feels emotionally, nor can they accurately replicate a disabled person’s interaction with other people on a day-to-day basis.