Disability can be defined as a condition (physical or mental) that inhibits ones senses, activities and movements. The experiences of disabled persons are hard to fathom for people who have no condition that limits their full mental and physical activity. In order to get a clear picture of the everyday experience of a person with a physical disability, a first-hand experience approach was chosen. The disability was simulated by means of an artificial barrier to free motorized movement of the hands. The subject had his hands bound in a pair of mittens to such an extent that movement was severely limited. An array of activities was then attempted in order to gauge the effect the disability had on the subject’s life. These activities included a visit to library from where two research article journals were borrowed, copied and delivered to the subject’s residence.
As the experiment got underway, countless challenges were experienced from the very beginning. The trip to the library was fraught with challenges. The use of transport amenities proved to be an uphill task. The subject had to be assisted when boarding the bus as no support for the disabled was available. On arrival at the library, the subject helplessly waited for his escort to open the door as this was unachievable for him given his physical state. The presentation of identification documents at the library front desk presented a mammoth challenge. The subject resorted to requesting the security officer to retrieve the identification card from the bag himself.
On entry into the library, the enormity of the task at hand became clear. Assistive technology for the subject’s physical state was non-existent. Tasks as basic as searching for books from the electronic catalogue were simply impossible to perform without the use of fully functional hands. The subject had to move from shelf to shelf in search of the relevant material. A lot of time was spent looking for journals whose location would have been quite easy for an able-bodied individual. The retrieval of the journals from their shelves was a mammoth task for the subject. He found the process of getting the journals from the shelf to his desk nothing short of impossible. He was forced to engage the help of the librarian in order to achieve this task. However, this was only the beginning of his challenges. In order to sample relevant articles from the journals, the subject had to use unconventional methods of reading such as the use of his cheeks to peruse pages. After the relevant articles were identified, the subject had to grasp the journals in his mouth, take them to the library photocopying machine and request a fellow student to produce the relevant copies. Needless to say, the entire process was extremely frustrating if not downright painful.
Reactions of the Subject
During the course of the experiment, the subject was faced with countless obstacles. These left him feeling helpless as he felt that he lacked the power to tend to himself. The subject was also fearful of the danger his condition presented to his life. This was because the lack of motorized forelimbs was a severe handicap to safe locomotion. The subject also felt frustrated at being unable to perform even the most basic of tasks as use of the bathroom.
Reactions of the Escort
The subject’s escort was forced to be extra vigilant in order to provide the protection needed by his “disabled” companion. He was always on the lookout for hazards to the test subject. He also felt exhausted at having to offer physical support to the support to the test subject during activity that would require no assistance for an able bodied person.
Reactions of the General Public
The public exhibited varied responses when encountering the subject’s physical condition. While others showed love and support for the subject, others were absolutely indifferent. Some were even cautious of the subject, probably for fear of worsening an already precarious physical condition. For instance, as the subject tripped and fell some members of the public got out of the way in order to avoid injury. Others simply avoided eye contact. It could be that they did not want to be asked for help or they were just indifferent about the subject’s condition.
The team formulated various strategies for coping with the subjects “handicap”. Throughout the experiment, public officers were informed of the subjects handicap in the hope that they would offer assistance during use of public facilities. However, some were found to be unwilling to provide any help. The team also came up with innovative methods of achieving tasks such as the use of mouth to grasp and transport items e.g. books. However, some tasks were impossible to accomplish.