Don’t let disabilities create distance

David Leal suffers from muscular dystrophy and wasn’t expected to live past 21, but he celebrated his 31st birthday in July.

He can no longer breathe without a ventilator and he is limited to a bed or a chair, but his ideas remain intact, and so do his dreams.

“My dream is to have somebody,” Leal said. “I like being loved – the feeling – having someone to talk to. Sometimes I feel lonely. I want someone to love me. No matter how I am.”

Many individuals with mental or physical disabilities share his thoughts. Like other people, they want to love and be loved in return.

Unfortunately, starting in grade school society has made a distinction between people who have disabilities from those who don’t. We enroll in regular and honors courses. They enroll in special education courses.

Although different classes and activities are often a necessity, some people begin to distance themselves from their peers with special needs. But, we’re all the same.

When you see someone walking with a limp, rolling down the hallway in a wheelchair or being walked to class by a student assistant, you wonder – and you stare.

In your head you’re probably thinking, “What’s wrong with them?” But in actuality, you shouldn’t be thinking anything at all.

Most people treat those with disabilities differently because they don’t know any better. We’ve been taught to associate ourselves with people we can relate to. Subconsciously, when we encounter people who we perceive as different, we assume they cannot.

We’re wrong.

There are various organizations on and off campus such as Best Buddies, Shake-a-Leg and Friendship Circle that encourage students to build relationships with peers they wouldn’t interact with on a daily basis.

Don’t define individuals by their disabilities. Define them by their abilities.

It is hard to break a behavior that is considered normal for the majority of us, but it has to be done – or at least attempted.

There has to be a way to look past people’s differences and see them for what they are:  regular people.


Editorials represent the majority view of  The Miami Hurricane editorial board.