Teachers, alumni win Understanding Our Differences awards

The Newtonite

by Hilary Brumberg

Understanding Our Differences held a celebration to honor its 60 program speakers who share their stories with all Newton third and fourth graders, according to Mary Beth McIntyre, a volunteer and board member of Understanding Our Differences.
Brian Heffernan ’09, Ben Majewski ’09, EDCO teacher Ed Mulligan and career and technical education outreach coordinator David Ticchi were among the people recognized in the ceremony, which was held Sunday, Oct. 16 at the Brae Burn Country Club.
According to its website, Understanding Our Differences is a “model, interactive disability awareness curriculum that teaches children to ‘see the person and not the disability.'” The curriculum covers blindness and low vision, deafness and hard of hearing, autism spectrum Disorder, physical disabilities, intellectual disabilities, learning disabilities and chronic medical conditions, such as allergic conditions, asthma, diabetes and epilepsy.
Mulligan’s role in Understanding Our Differences is to organize, transport and interpret for Deaf and Hard of Hearing students from the EDCO program who share with the elementary school children of Newton.
“The elementary students love hearing the stories from the EDCO students as they can relate to them as young people,” Mulligan said.
“I myself was pleased and humbled to be invited to receive this award,”Mulligan said. “The people who were being honored that evening have helped to change the world by sharing their stories with others in order to help with improved understanding of each other.”
Ticchi has been a speaker for Understanding Our Differences since the organization started over 30 years ago. He has spoken at every Newton Public School multiple times about his life as a blind individual, according to Ticchi.
He said that when he speaks to group of students and faculty members, his message is that “blind people are like any other group of people.”
Ticchi said that with the proper training and a positive attitude, blind people can integrate into society and compete with their signed peers.
He believes that we should “respect human differences and celebrate diversity, but ultimately, there is much more common among us as human beings than different.
“Regardless of gender, age, or culture we share values like honesty, trust, fairness, respect and responsibility.”