PAA Health Class Takes Part in Disability Day

September 01, 2006 | Heather Fowler

Walk a mile in my moccasins is what the old adage says. How often does one have the opportunity to do this? Portland Adventist Academy teacher Linda Johnson decided to give her students this opportunity. After studying a unit on various physical and mental disabilities, Johnson challenged her students to take it to another level: live a day with a physical impairment.

Using ear protectors, crutches, wheelchairs, and darkened sunglasses, Johnson’s sophomore health class was required to rely on other senses and helpful friends to get them through their day. What started off as a prospective day of fun turned out to be a day of various challenges and even some frustrations. “I was so surprised how hard it was to complete simple tasks like opening a door,” said Anelisse Johnson who simulated having a torn ACL (ligament in the knee) and was on crutches. “I can’t imagine how difficult it must be for someone who has to live daily with this challenge.”

Another student, Megan Prichard, also experienced frustration. With an avulsion to the eye, a condition where the retina detaches, often due to injury, Prichard had to wear a patch over the other eye. “I kept bumping into things,” exclaimed Prichard. “I never realized how much you use your peripheral vision!"

This experience left a lasting impression on many of the students. “It truly makes you want to help anyone with a disability,” said Johnson.

Johnson found that her students shared a mutual respect for people who live with impairments and what their daily lives truly involve. The original chatter of excitement was replaced by a quiet awe the next day. “I want my students to feel compassion for other’s challenges, think twice about offering assistance, and, most of all, to feel a blessing for the gift of health,” said Johnson.