Addressing Bullying in the Disability Community - The Mobility Resource

Seeking the Wisdom of National Anti-Bullying Speaker Tony Bartoli

People with disabilities can become easy targets for bullies, an unfortunate reality national anti-bullying speaker Tony Bartoli knows all too well. You see bullies prey on differences, whether one speaks with a speech impediment, uses a wheelchair and related technologies such as handicap accessible vans and car hand controls, or deals with another disability caused difference. Tony Bartoli, who has delivered his anti-bullying message to various schools across 27 different states, sat down with The Mobility Resource to share insight into the bullying problem.

Born with a mild-to-moderate case of cerebral palsy Tony Bartoli walks a little different,  as you will notice in his Youtube video “Will You Take a Stand Against Bullying?” Growing up bullies at school picked on Bartoli, calling him names and mocking him in other fashions. For instance, Bartoli recalls one time playing baseball where the bully ring leader Andy summoned everyone on the field to move in saying, “The crippled one is up, he can’t hit.” On that day Tony Bartoli enjoyed the final laugh, driving the ball all the way to the fence for a triple.

However very few bullying incidents result with the victim putting his tormentor in place, a point Bartoli stresses. Talking about the assemblies he hosts at schools Bartoli said, “It gives the kids the chance, the opportunity to see wow, bullying really does affect somebody’s life, even 20 or 30 years down the road.” This in return can motivate kids to speak up for those being bullied, an essential action to eliminating verbal and physical putdowns according to Bartoli.

Tony-Bartoli

Tony Bartoli teaches bullying involves three parties, the bully, the bullied and bystanders. Bystanders, those who allow the bullying to take place, possess the most power within a given situation. When bystanders take action and say, “You shouldn’t be doing that. This isn’t right” the bullies lose power. Bartoli explained the years of torment he endured ended in ninth grade because a few classmates began sticking up for him. A few eventually became the majority as a domino effect occurred within the hallways of Bartoli’s high school.

Asked if he ever encountered somebody who has been picked on for using a handicap accessible van or car hand controls Bartoli answered no but did note, “Adult to adult bullying is so common these days.” He proceeded to share interesting feedback one of his Youtube videos received. A teacher commented “Wow, I think this is a message our school board members need to hear because some of them are bullying.”

When questioned about whether the Internet provides a more positive or negative influence on bullying Bartoli answered negatively explaining, “With the Internet we open ourselves to the culture of bullying.” He cites the Internet’s constant nature as one reason why. At least with schoolyard bullying an escape exists when you go home. On the other hand the Internet remains accessible day and night. Some anti-bullying specialists suggest limiting a child’s time online to prevent cyberbullying but Bartoli dislikes this solution, stating “That’s more like a punishment.”

Of course the Internet does also maintain positive influences on the bullying issue. Online support groups enable you to feel less isolated, as you connect with others experiencing similar situations. News stories’ readily availableness enables increased awareness, assisting to debunk the fallacy bullying is a harmless part of childhood.

Overall the Internet serves as a tool to fight bullying by offering a group dynamic and educating, two values Tony Bartoli promotes during his assemblies. Bartoli emphasizes bullies often target individuals so he advises finding like-minded peers to surround yourself with. Education proves crucial especially for bystanders. Bullying awareness can turn a bystander into an activist for the bullied, ultimately preventing future incidents from happening.

To learn more about Tony Bartoli and his anti-bullying efforts visit www.tonyb4hope.com. If your handicap accessible van, car hand controls, or other specialized transportation equipment draws you unwanted negative attention, you can email Bartoli at tonyb4hope@yahoo.com for advice.

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