KANSAS CITY, Kan. -- It's been said that empathy means being able to see through the eyes of others.
Students at one KCK middle school learned that on Tuesday, as they received a first-hand glimpse at what it means to have a disability. It's a lesson the teenagers won't soon forget.
People with disabilities have more in common with the able-bodied than meets the eye. Students at Rosedale Middle School learned that and more on Tuesday through a special program delivered by Midwest Adaptive Sports.
Stan Weston led a large group of eighth graders through activities that show what it's like to need a wheelchair or to be visually impaired.
Weston's instructors, including two former college wheelchair basketball players, emphasize ability rather than inability.
The three lesson leaders arranged for able-bodied students to participate in a wheelchair basketball game against those experienced wheelchair players. Other demonstrations involved students wearing goggles that block out all light, causing the wearer to experience the blindness known by visually-impaired people.
Weston, who is a retired physical education teacher from St. Joseph, said he's seen too many kids with disabilities forced to sit out gym class while others participate in the fun.
"We want them to realize people who are blind can do things themselves. They don't always have to have someone there guiding them around," Weston said Tuesday. "If a person is blind, they're blind 24 hours, every day."
Weston's program focuses on adaptation by people with disabilities. Ten minutes under the goggles was enough to finish most of the Rosedale kids, none of whom had a disability of their own, to Weston's knowledge.
"It's very difficult," said Carol Baca, a Rosedale eighth grader. "It's hard to move around a lot when you're in a wheelchair instead of when you're standing up and the same thing as moving around."
"I learned that some visually impaired people can use their other senses to locate things like hearing, smell, taste, touch," said Anderson Hernandez, who is also an eighth grader at the school.
Weston is only two years into this program, and he's already presented to more than 20 schools. He believes kids are learning people with disabilities are no different than anyone else.
Weston said his program received grant money from The Whole Person, as well as the Kansas City Health Foundation. Weston said he still has a few spots remaining on his schedule for this school year. You can contact him via this website.