Source: Lake Geneva Regional News

Big Foot students experience having a disability for a day

by Rob Ireland

March 24, 2011

Walworth — For one school day, students had a chance to walk a mile in their shoes.

While wearing earplugs, kids struggled to hear their teachers. Other students put scotch tape on their glasses, which resulted in them crashing into their classmates in the hallways.

None of the Big Foot High School students said it was easy. Most reported being teased.

On March 17, about 25 students simulated having a disability. They tied their arms and legs down with splints, taped their fingers together or spent the day in a wheelchair.

For a project for their peers, Emily and Rebecca Fideler, the students lived with a disability for the whole day. The Fidelers, who are twins, suffer from cerebral palsy and nystagmus.

Cerebral palsy impairs the control of movement due to damage to the developing brain. The disease is nonprogressive, meaning the brain damage doesn’t worsen over time. Nystagmus causes involuntary eye movement, which causes difficulty with depth-perception.

The Fidelers are competing in an illustrated talk in the Family, Consumer and Career Leaders of America state competition, which is being held in the Wisconsin Dells. If they win, the Fidelers would compete in a national competition. The Fidelers plan to incorporate the students’ experiences into their project at the state competition.

“I hope they learned what it’s like to have a disability,” Elizabeth said. “I think they will find that it’s harder than they thought.”

Emily said she was pleased so many students volunteered for the experiment.

“I think it’s neat that they wanted to do it,” Emily said.

What did the kids say about the day

Candice Stout had her fingers tapped together during the day, which didn’t allow her to use her hand.

In biology class, she had to pick up a marshmallow during an experiment.

“I had a lot of people laughing at me. It made me feel bad, but I kept thinking of Emily because it made me think of how she must feel,” Stout said. “She kept coming to my mind.”

Whitney Ramos wore ear plugs throughout the day. She said she was told she sounded congested and that she would either talk too loud or too softly.

During her choir class, she kept her hands on the piano to feel it vibrate, which helped her stay in beat with the song.

“I also watched lips to see where we were in the song,” Ramos said.

Karly and Conner Ruosch, who are also twins, said they volunteered to have a disability for a day because their older sister suffers from a cognitive disorder.

Karly sat in a wheelchair throughout the day and Conner wore ear plugs.

Karly learned it is difficult to manipulate the chair. She also found it frustrating when the wheelchair lift in the library was broken.

“Getting food was awful because you couldn’t reach the stuff at the top,” she said.

Alex Martin wore scotch tape over her glasses, which didn’t leave her blind, but severely obstructed her vision. She described wearing the glasses as “awful.”

“A lot of people were laughing and I could hear them snicker,” Martin said.

She said in class they watched to movies, which she found challenging.

“I have more respect for how they go throughout their life. I don’t know how they do it,” she said.

As the students talked about their day, Elizabeth listened in and she was excited to hear about their experience.

“It’s amazing how they stuck with it and didn’t cheat,” she said. “I have a lot of respect for them.”