The Daily Star, Oneonta, NY - otsego county news, delaware county news, oneonta news, oneonta sports


October 6, 2007

disABILITY: 'Disabled' doesn't mean 'unskilled'


What I mean by that is, just as other people have visual depth perception, I have auditory depth perception.

More technically, it is referred to as "facial vision." It's much more developed in people without sight. Facial vision refers to the ability to sense subtle variations in sound direction, air pressure and electronic fields. And that perception can be used to distinguish size, shape, distance and a whole lot of other technical things that people mistake as exclusively visual.

You know what, though? I didn't get to the place I'm at all by myself. I had parents who did so much to support and advocate for me when I was a kid. I was mainstreamed in a regular school and given encouragement and opportunities alongside my sighted peers to participate in art, music and sports. I was taught everything from the basics, such as reading and spelling, to the more advanced things such as Spanish and trigonometry.

There's really no single experience that has taught me what I know and what I'm capable of now. It is, however, more a combination of all experiences and all exposures to a variety of things that has helped me become adaptable and perceptive.

It's the duty of parents, teachers and community support groups to help children with disabilities or impairments to gain a healthy self-confidence, and to explore the practical modifications and adaptations necessary. After that, it's up to business people to recognize that disability does not automatically mean unskilled.

Kate Pavlacka, a graduate of the State University College at Oneonta, has been totally blind for 11 years.

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