Athens residents gathered at the Athens Community Center Friday for the second annual Challenged by Choice event — an event that allows people to experience being disabled for a day.
The Athens City Commission on Disabilities hosted the event Friday and participants were randomly assigned a vision, hearing or learning disability, said Larry Jageman, a commission member and coordinator of the event.
“The purpose is for individuals to be more sensitive to experiences of people with disabilities,” he said.
Participants met at Ponderosa Steakhouse, 743 E. State St., at 1 p.m. to receive their disability assignments and then went about their normal days while experiencing the disability.
At 5 p.m., eight participants shared their experiences at the discussion meeting in the community center, 701 E. State St.
“It was difficult to communicate with my workers and they started getting frustrated with me,” said Walmart Manager Brett Collins, who was given a reading disability.
Many participants expressed feeling lonely and frustrated by their disabilities.
“I didn’t want to interact with people. I felt isolated and I can’t imagine feeling isolated so much all the time,” said Angie Pyle, owner of Donkey Coffee & Espresso, 17 ½ W. Washington St., who experienced deafness.
Later, Athens residents actually living with disabilities were asked to share their stories.
“Blindness cuts you off from things. Deafness cuts you off from people,” said Athens resident J. W. Smith, in reference to people feeling isolated.
Smith, who was born blind, agreed with other speakers that life for people with disabilities is improving.
“There are all kinds of ways to do what you want to do,” he said, adding that people with disabilities have to train themselves to live in the “normal world”.
Other speakers said they were touched by the stories of people living with disabilities and learned a lot from the simulation.
“I’m amazed how people bridge the gap from disability to living a normal life,” said Susan Quinn, the optical services provider for the event.