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The Art of Simulation (Activities)

It was the famous writer Oscar Wilde who said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

While imitation is mostly complimentary, sometimes it’s not always the case as things can easily get lost in translation.

I’m sure you’ve all been exposed to an educational tool called Simulation Activities. A form of experiential learning, these are instructional scenarios where people are placed in a situation defined by the presenter that allows them experience the “reality” of the scenario and gather meaning from it.

Simulation activities are a great tool; I use them all the time in our 30 Foot Drop workshops. Personally, I find them a great storytelling tool to help better engage the audience and create a bit of empathy.

However, I’m fully aware that simulation activities do not tell the WHOLE story, and make sure I stress that point to our workshop participants.

Herein lies the bigger issue.

As mentioned, simulation activities can help build empathy in your audience. However, they are not mirror reflective of every day living – these ‘situations’ are but a small drop in the ocean.

Used incorrectly, simulation activities can actually have the reverse effect and feed the negative narrative that people living with a disability are not capable.

Take for example my wheelchair. It can be quite funny watching someone try and navigate a chair the first time they sit in one. It happened to me too – when I first started rehab after my accident, I was awful! But I learned to get better and now still just as capable to live independently as I was before my accident.

Yet, if you were to experience sitting in a chair for the first time and didn’t have me (or someone with similar limited abilities) as a reference point, it would be natural to walk away (pardon the pun) with a negative connotation to living with a disability.

But I can tell you: that one activity that you’re doing for the first and only time does not reflect my day to day life. It’s important that presenters who utilise simulation activities acknowledge these grey areas. It can be a fine line between education and perception, and if not properly communicated then we could be unknowingly reinforcing the stereotype of the useless cripple.

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