A Touch of Understanding (ATOU) provides disability awareness programs designed to educate a new generation to understand the challenges associated with disabilities and to accept and respect all individuals. Incorporated in 1996, A Touch of Understanding is a nonprofit organization comprised of dedicated individuals, some with disabilities and some without. These dedicated volunteers come together to form a strong team working to help students look beyond the disability, the wheelchair, the braces, the unpredictable behavior and see the person. The program is geared toward elementary through high school students. With mainstreaming/full inclusion becoming more prevalent, all students, able bodied and disabled, need to recognize their common humanity, desires and feelings. Each year, we speak to more than 10,000 students throughout the Greater Sacramento area. Each student participates in our two-part program:
- In the activity portion of our program, they use wheelchairs and mobility canes, write in Braille, handle braces and artificial limbs, and participate in a mirror-writing activity to understand the frustration of a learning disability.
- They also meet with our volunteers who have disabilities, who share their insight and experiences with humor and honesty.
The program works by turning negative attitudes into positive ones and facilitating stronger interpersonal skills within the next generation. Attitudes improve and respectful interactions increase. Comments from students following the presentations remind us how important our work is!