As you know too well, caring for loved ones who are sick or elderly, is time consuming and taxing. And that caring falls on top of everything else you have to do.
In a presentation last Friday (yes I took a sick daughter to work with me, don’t tell anyone,) I heard Nadine Vogel share how it is to care for special-needs children, 24-7. It’s all consuming, taxing, and scary.
You’ll probably be surprised to know that Americans with disabilities and their caretakers make up a full third of the U.S. population. Of this group there are 28 million women with disabilities.
The cool thing about Nadine is that she started this company, Springboard Consulting, to help corporate America relate to and communicate more effectively with special-needs individuals and their caretakers. She’s also just published a book, Dive In, in which shares her experience and research findings. It’s just been out a couple of weeks and is already a supplemental textbook at places like MIT and Georgia Tech. Impressive!
Nadine’s making money, making the world a better place, and having tons of fun in the process. Her enthusiasm is contagious.
Here are some random-but-useful things I learned from Nadine’s talk at a class at College of Charleston last Friday:
– Language is a huge issue. Adults usually refer to having a “disability” while parents refer to their children with disabilities as “special needs.”
-The person comes first. Anna has a brother with Down Syndrome, not Anna has a Down Syndrome brother. That reminds me of what Dr. Seuss wrote, A person is a person, no matter how small.
– A person in a wheelchair is not confined to that chair. Rather, the chair grants the person mobility – highly desirable! And on the subject of wheel chairs, it is offensive to lean on a person’s wheel chair, Nadine compared it to leaning on a pregnant woman’s stomach. (She has two special-needs daughters.)
In her talk, Nadine shared the analogy of the iceberg. When you see a person with evidence of a physical disability, you’re only seeing a small aspect of the entire human person. While that’s also true of everyone we meet, our tendency can be to stop with the perception of a disability, and make no further attempt to get to know that person.
Because this large portion of our population has been ignored or marginalized for so long, there is much potential for people and companies willing to dive in and see what’s below the surface.