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Gordon's D-Zone Arcive (2006-2014)

Thursday, September 14, 2006

THE BEAUTY OF BEING NORMAL

Before I start today’s blog entry, I take this opportunity to thank my friend Michael and all other disabled and non-disabled friends who are helping to broaden the audience of this blog. But now back to blogginess …


There are only some issues that make me rather angry and get me passionate. One of those is when people tell me things like...

“Let’s face it, whatever you wish to believe you’re not ‘normal’ …”

I have struggled personally with my own view of ‘normality’ when I was a kid. I remember denouncing anything that tried to define me in terms other than my birth name. And one of those labels that I particularly disliked was the word ‘normal’. This is because, for all intents and purposes, to medical professionals and people who should know better, I was ‘abnormal’. My legs were different and although I developed arthritis only later, I deemed myself quite an active and smart kid.

Now, at the time I also despised the term ‘disabled’ as well because I thought that it signified that I lacked ability. But today, I have come to understand that this term reflects rather the way society excludes persons like me in the sense that it ‘disables’ or restricts our participation and choices in society. Moreover, ‘disability’ also reflects the negative attitude that I often face as a person having an impairment.

In other words, I have joined in the ranks of other disabled people who think that it is not my impairment that limits my opportunities but it is rather the way society is organised that disables me. You are now thinking… but sure great theory, but you can’t walk or see properly … well, you may be right there. But who has said that walking and seeing are what makes you ‘normal’?

Let’s be honest, would a ‘normal’ person glare at a computer screen reading this? A person living in the 19th century would have thought you were nuts… more so if he or she was illiterate… And who says that being able to walk is essentially a good thing?
The fact is that we often never consider that what we call ‘normality’ is limited to a particular person. This person is usually a male, heterosexual, having middle-class values, white and of course Christian and non-disabled. Anyone who also literally falls short of these standards may be consider, err…, ‘abnormal’. The reasons we have a ‘norm’ and the ‘normal’ words may be more due to the increasing number of assessment tests needed to fill our factories and work places in the past.
That is why to this day, our structures exclude the needs of women and disabled people alike. These people just wouldn’t be working anyway to a person living at the start of the industrial revolution, so why bother with flexible hours or maternity leaf and child care facilities? Or accessible facilities and environments? And what about our ‘normality’? If I travel to Japan, I wouldn’t have such an aching neck trying to speak to some of my non-disabled acquaintances and the people I meet. I would also get a better deal on accessible as most of the population is an aging one… but of course growing old is not normal is it?

Jokes apart, standardised tests are also often biased as they give high ranking to people who can afford to get an education. For more on this issue go to:

PROBLEMS WITH TESTS


The danger of talking about ‘normality’ is that it always assumes that there is such a thing as a ‘normal person’. But I haven’t met Mr Norm in the street so far. But he should be quite an ordinary and uninteresting person because if you think about it it’s our differences that make our world well, wonderful. And let’s not kid myself, we often do not think how much our talk of ‘normality;’ is terribly biased and socially based. Take reading for example. The inability to Read is regarded to be a disability, and in fact is one of the disabilities covered by the WHO or the World Health Organisation. In fact in this health article, the gravity of having a ‘reading disability’ is discussed:
READING DISABILITY HEALTH ARTICLE


You might also be surprised to know that even baldness was once considered a 'disability' by the WORLD HEALTH ORGANISATION (WHO) ... don't believe me? Then...

READ THE 1970s WHO CHARTER


But if we go back to the 19th century guy who is now with his jaw dropping as he sees you using your mouse or keyboard right now and wondering whether to call the minister or local exorcist… what do you think would he think of your ‘magic’ of reading. In truth, he would not regard reading magical as such but it would be rather strange for him to conceive of how a monitor works or in my case how a speech engine works... The truth is at the time when illiteracy was the ‘norm’; reading was only the tool of the elite ruling classes. People who couldn’t read or write were not only accepted but people we now ‘diagnose’ with dyslexia were non-existent. This is because, whether we like it or not, writing and reading are products of society.
In short, what is normal for me is being who I am. It was normal for me to have walking difficulties, now it’s normal for me to use a wheelchair. It’s also normal for me to use a screen reader to write and read.

My body may be different than yours, and I think it’s a good thing… but for many I’m the one who should be sorry for myself. Sad because I cannot climb stairs when I go some new place. Angry because I can’t read a printed book. Sobbing because people think my life’s shit… blah blah blah... But ask yourself:

Who build the stairs or designed the building?

Who invented print and forgot to provide alternative formats?

- Who decided my life was not worth it just because I just do things differently?

It’s surely not Mother Nature’s fault, and that’s why to misquote John Lennon… disability if you ask me...is all social construction! I think society must adapt to accommodate this difference within it. As for a long time it has denied that not every one is Mr Norm...
‘Nuff said!

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