SOC advocacy group PDARG (People with Disabilities Advocacy Resource Group) provides a support and communication network for employees; enhances awareness within the Company; guides management regarding policies and issues of importance for people with disabilities; and fosters opportunities, and personal and professional growth for employees with disabilities.
PDARG sponsored the following editorial written by a SOC, Day & Zimmerman staff member.
"Rain, rain, go away, come again some other day!" I remember singing this song as a child wanting to go outside and play in my treehouse. Today, as an adult, I sing this because the rain brings problems with my ability to go about my day. While the humidity and rain affect my joints causing them to freeze and restrict my movement, sounds and scents become more enhanced and contribute to my remembrance of the past causing me to become less focused. My treehouse was my place of solitude, where I could be myself and no one would judge me for my imperfections. Nowadays, when these symptoms are triggered, I go to a different haven - my practice: slowing down, deep breathing, or stretching.
On any given day, not necessarily during the "rainy season," strong smells such as perfumes and foods can become unpleasant which then cause migraines and breathing issues. Or, sounds become more enhanced so that hearing talking, banging, ticking, and even loud noises at times make my skin crawl. My limbs feel tired and heavy, and I feel as though I am walking in sand with crippled appendages. Even when I sit, I collapse into a blob with difficulties conforming because of the chronic pain that runs throughout my body. But most of all, I forget things – little things such as keys and big things such as people's names or something I have asked you to repeat time and time again
The symptoms described here may be experienced by many individuals with PTSD, Fibromyalgia, or Gulf War Syndrome on a daily basis – though each individual is different. But these symptoms are not things that you can point out easily like the need for a wheelchair or a missing appendage. Conditions such as PTSD, Fibromyalgia, or Gulf War Syndrome are disabilities that are often hidden from sight, though they are no less serious, especially to those experiencing them.
How might you know if someone has a disability that can't be seen with the eyes? Active deep listening. Imagine meeting a person for the first time without the ability to see them. Imagine that all you can do is hear their voice, the movements they make, and the sounds around them. Listen to them introduce themselves and notice how they speak. I mean really listen. Do they sound happy, sad, unsure, or excited? Do they seem isolated? This focused awareness begets learning, understanding, and compassion.
How can you can increase attention? Listen to music. Close your eyes and listen to your favorite song. Think about the songwriter and the story that is being told through the words and the notes. For instance, Lady Gaga's music, to me, projects the sounds of a strong and powerful woman who endures fears and heartaches just like the rest of us. Guess what? Lady Gaga experiences chronic pain due to Fibromyalgia. You don't necessarily need to go to war to obtain the disabilities such as PTSD, Fibromyalgia or Gulf War Syndrome.
In Focus on Ability, Serving Girls With Special Needs, Martha E. Carroll and Martha Jo Dennison suggest a way to evaluate your attitudes towards people with disabilities.
They suggest you ask yourself:
Do I avoid eye contact when talking with the people with disabilities?
Do I avoid asking people with disabilities a question because I am afraid it will upset them?
Do I feel sorry for people with disabilities?
Do I find myself thinking of the disability before I think of the person?
Carroll and Dennison note:
If you answered "yes" to any of these questions, you need to think about why you are answering this way. Your feelings may come from early associations with a disability.
As you discover the reasons for your feelings, you will be able to eliminate some of the myths you have learned about people with disabilities. With accurate information, you will be able to accept the person with a disability as an individual.