Active-Shooter Drills Often Disregard Those With Disabilities
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Health and Wellness

Our Schools Teach Us ‘Fight Or Flight’ In A Mass Shooting, But That Plan Doesn't Help Students With Disabilities

253 mass shootings, 276 killed, and 1,055 injured and that's only in 2019. Who is potentially included in those tragically killed or seriously injured?

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Our Schools Teach Us ‘Fight Or Flight’ In A Mass Shooting, But That Plan Doesn't Help Students With Disabilities
Misbah Chhotani

Countless times during intruder drills we're told to stay quiet in the classroom and it always made it seem like that strategy would give you the best chances to stay alive. As we get older, that strategy we learned in early elementary school evolves and we learn that the best strategy, when faced with an intruder, is to run, fight, or hide. This strategy is flawed and concerning though for those who have physical limitations. Now, I am not going to generalize and say that this is the thought process for all those who live with physical disabilities, but I can say that we're concerned about our safety.

OK, let's breakdown the run, fight, or hide mantra.

Running away from danger is not very practical/realistic for those mobilizing in a wheelchair or if you're like me, walking with crutches. Let's take the scenario at UNC Charlotte, for example, this tragedy happened while students were in a classroom listening to final presentations. If the desks there are anything like the ones at my university, it can be tricky and may take longer to get up and exit.

Even for someone like me who tries and sits in the front of the classroom closest to the door, getting up and running to the door within seconds is near to impossible.

Now, let's forget classroom settings for a second. Many times I have found myself in situations during fire drills and other non-life-threatening situations on a high floor in a multi-floor building. No use of elevators, just stairs. I mean I consider myself pretty fast on any staircase but am I fast enough to escape a potential shooter who may be chasing me? Probably not. Not to mention, there are individuals who have disabilities who are not as mobile as I am. That means they rely on the use of wheelchairs for their transportation. So at that point, they would rely on good (and strong!) Samaritans to fling them over their shoulder and carry them to safety. I'm optimistic that those people exist, but it's a risk that would be taken. I didn't even cover the many crazy, miraculous ways people have narrowly escaped death such as climbing out of windows. The near-to-impossible way for us to escape.

Fighting the potential threat poses the many questions of their physical strength ability to fight. But even able-bodied individuals have their limits. Our limits are presumably lower, unfortunately, making this part of this way of escape hard, if not impossible.

Hiding isn't completely impossible. Except you have to keep in mind those who use mobility aide have extra things to hide in order to secure safety. And equipment like wheelchairs and forearm crutches can be extremely tricky to hide away in a hiding spot. Not to mention, if this hiding spot requires the ability to crouch down many individuals would be in danger because that may not be possible. Another aspect to think about: there are those with disabilities who don't have the ability to talk and understandably will try to speak their minds at any moment they get. What happens if they accidentally spoke or made noise while hiding from potential danger? I would not want to find out.

So why did I just breakdown the run, fight, hide strategy we are taught as we get older? Because time and time again as we witness and experience tragedies around the US, we hear stories of those able to narrowly escape death using this technique that is reinforced to them through authority figures during the traumatic event.

But approximately 48.9 million people in the US are at risk of dying at the hands of gun violence because they simply were not built for escaping like their able-bodied peers.

48.9 million people are losing their chance to change the world because they may die from a gun. Well, I am one of those proud 48.9 million people living in the US with a disability. And as long as I am living on this Earth, I will fight for those who can't and will fight in place of those in power, who choose to ignore the main root cause of this public health crisis in our country. Because I want the population of those with disabilities, the 48.9 million, to double or triple, not be at risk to decrease because of senseless tragedies.

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