Through a character-building workshop that is performed for approximately 7,500 students each year at elementary, middle and high schools in Greater Sacramento, CA, A Touch of Understanding is teaching a new generation to understand the challenges associated with disabilities and to accept and respect all individuals.
The program helps students reflect on their own challenges and abilities, and many are surprised to discover the similarities between themselves and persons with disabilities. At activity stations, able-bodied students learn to use a wheelchair and white cane, write their names in Braille, handle braces and artificial limbs and experience the sensations of having a learning disability and autism. Then students meet youths and adults with disabilities who describe their lives, their challenges, and how they achieve their goals. Students interact with these volunteers, get to know them personally, and ask questions … some of which might be too personal to feel comfortable asking or answering in other settings.
A Touch of Understanding is in its 22nd year of operation, powered by 10,016 hours of volunteer labor last year. This organization has found success teaching able-bodied young people an important concept: to understand someone different than you, walk a mile in their shoes.