I’ve been listening to the tapes I made of the 2014 Summer Institute on Theology and Disability back in June. It is almost impossible for me to take notes and listen to a lecture or presentation at the same time due to my brain’s inability to divide its attention which is why I tape them. It takes quite a bit of time going back through the tapes to take notes since I have to pause the tape in order to do this. I can’t imagine going to school now for it would take me forever to earn a degree!
I so enjoyed being around others involved in the disability community for we speak the same language. The Institute values the experiences and opinions of people living with a disability which isn’t the case back in the “real world.” After every speaker, there was a time for questions. There are the usual academic questions which one gets in a seminary classroom, sometimes asked by people who have disabilities and are serving as ministers in a faith community.
However, what I really liked about this time, were the questions from folks who have difficulty speaking due to their disability. They often spoke slowly and with great care. One of the challenges I have due to my TBI, is concentration. Some of the neurons in my brain were destroyed in the accident so the remaining ones, must do double duty. As a result, concentrating on something for an extended period of time, wears me out.
Here the issue of different challenges for folks who have different disabilities, clashed. I need someone to speak clearly so it doesn’t take a lot of concentration for me to understand them. Someone who has a disability which impairs their speech must speak slowly which I imagine is hard to do. However, it takes real concentration for me which causes cognitive overload. In our regular lives, people are too busy to take the time to listen and understand so I appreciated that time was allowed for this despite my cognitive overload.
What I really liked about the Institute is, everyone knew there are differences in disabilities. My challenges are different from someone else’s and the important thing is to take the time to really listen and understand one another. This is something those of us who have disabilities can teach the rest of the world, if they would only pay attention to us.