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January 31, 2014 1

Derrick Coleman: Creating Conversation About Differences

The Super Bowl is arguably one of the biggest days in Amer­i­can sports, and with good rea­son. In addi­tion to being a com­pe­ti­tion of the best two foot­ball teams in the most pop­u­lar sport in Amer­ica, this year it is also the kind of cel­e­bra­tion not often asso­ci­ated with pro­fes­sional sports.

Der­rick Cole­man, a run­ning back for the Seat­tle Sea­hawks, is the only legally deaf ath­lete in pro­fes­sional foot­ball his­tory to play offense. In early Jan­u­ary 2014, Cole­man served as the inspi­ra­tion for a major brand’s com­mer­cial where he talks about the impact his hear­ing impair­ment has had on his life. The video went viral and in less than a week, and had 5.5 mil­lion views.

Coleman’s per­sonal story pro­vides an excel­lent teach­ing oppor­tu­nity to dis­cuss dis­abil­i­ties and the impor­tance of safe­guard­ing the rights and dig­nity of peo­ple with dis­abil­i­ties in our com­mu­ni­ties and around the world. As the U.S. Sen­ate debates whether to rat­ify an inter­na­tional treaty on dis­abil­ity rights , Derrick’s story pro­vides an oppor­tu­nity to put a human face on the impact that treaty can have on people’s lives.

Edu­ca­tion can be for­mal and infor­mal. We have cre­ated a new class­room les­son for teach­ers, but adults can cre­ate a les­son in their own liv­ing rooms dur­ing the Super Bowl. Here are a few ques­tions to the get the con­ver­sa­tion going with your friends and family.

  • Do you know what a dis­abil­ity is?
  • What’s unique about Der­rick Coleman?
  • What do you think it’s like to feel you are dif­fer­ent from every­one else?
  • What are some ways you could help oth­ers who are treated unfairly because they are different?

It’s not nec­es­sary to have all the answers.  The very act of cre­at­ing a con­ver­sa­tion about dif­fer­ence is a healthy and pro­duc­tive way to raise aware­ness that being dif­fer­ent is ok, and is in fact some­thing to celebrate.

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