Jill, Aaron and I have been talking lately about how it’s often hard for the community of persons without differences to understand how to incorporate persons with differences into their “world” in a meaningful way. Well, this week I have been thinking how there is a flip side to that; there are a lot of things that I, as a person with a difference don’t get either. For years, I have said that if I ever facilitate a workshop for persons with differences and their personal support workers, the first thing I would say to the group is: “We are never going to completely understand each other.” And it’s true: I don’t get how physically difficult it can sometimes be for Jill – or my parents – to help me with all of my daily tasks. I don’t get how at times it must be annoying for Jill to do homework while she is spending the weekend because I could call her to help me at any second. I also don’t get the particular struggles that people with other disabilities have; I don’t get what it is like not to be able to spell certain words automatically because of a learning difference or how boring it must be to sit through a church service that is not completely understandable because of a cognitive difference.
In reality, I can only completely understand my own experience, and the aspects of the experiences of others that are easiest to empathize with are those that mirror my own. At times, this leads me to believe that I should strive to only help those with physical differences, because that is what I would be best at. But I know that this way of thinking undermines the purpose of BB Squared, both in the sense that our goal is to help as many people with differences as possible and while helping those people we want not only people without differences to understand us better, we want people within the differences community to understand each other better, too.