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

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Special needs

With a great sense of duty and absolute bravery, today I undertake a favourite topic of the non-disabled community when talking about us. Indeed, following reading the very enlightening guide on how to make disabled friends written for kids, available at:


http://www.kidshealth.org/kid/feeling/friend/special_needs.html


Before I start, however, I want to come clean. As every disabled person knows, we do have very ‘special needs’. As poor unfortunate and tragic individuals, we are happy to be made to enjoy the little moments that make us more joyful and cheerful. For the benefit of our non-disabled contemporaries, here is my brief guide to some of our ‘special needs’ that sets us apart from the non-disabled people. Or as we might refer to them, the ‘non-specials’.

There are of course an endless number of these needs, but I’ve decided to shrink them down to some of the most important to us ‘special’ people.


1. GETTING AROUND.

This special need of ours encompasses a wide range of issues. Of course, non-disabled people seem very happy to stay at home watching the latest soap or series. But we have this need to go about our own business, going out with friends, and doing the things that are considerably important to us. One reason being is that this special need permits us to access other ‘special needs’, such as ‘special’ education, employment and leisure (or should that be therapy?)

As a wheelchair user, I do get comments and sometimes wonder when exerting this special need. Obviously, I am flattered by all the feedback I receive from the streets and from people I do not know. They need cheering up most of the time I see them, I wonder why. And no, a pat on the back or worse a pat on the head won’t make a ramp or lift magically appear. And please, I’m not planning to risk my life on the roads to get somewhere far – so make public transport accessible.

But I digress …



2. ACQUIRING INFORMATION

Before I became visually impaired, I took print for granted. Now, I have realised that I have discovered that I have this special need now. Non-disabled people do not seem to appreciate how information is important to us special people but I figure they might have developed some power to read minds. Basically, for those unfamiliar with what I’m on about, this special need ranges from being able to know what is on the news to surfing the net and reading books.

And to aid me in my attempt to do this I have assisting me... not a personal secretary (although I wouldn’t mind one)... but a screen reader or a software that converts electronic text into speech. Cool isn’t it? And I can’t forget that some of us who are deaf would need to have some form of sub-titling or real time sign language interpretation during broadcasts. Not only that, but some of us even require this information to be available in a simpler format for them to understand.


3. COMMUNICATION

What am I doing here? Communicating of course… But this is another of our special needs of course. Take those special people among us who use sign language... they have their own language if you don’t get that. And of course non-disabled do not need to communicate anything in particular, so that’s why communicators used by certain physically disabled people become ‘special’ tools for indeed a very touching gesture.

Underlying all these (and which should have been first) is the number 4 special need:

SOCIAL AND POLITICAL RIGHTS

Non-special people might want to have their rights taken away from them as they seem to take them for granted. But we special people have been denied basic rights and rights to have control over our own life for a long, long time. And our need is really a need to be regarded as:

Humans. The way some look upon us and the questions they ask makes me wonder whether we’re truly regarded as such. Listening to dialogues on us and them is a case in point.

Persons. In medical wards, especially, I get the impression we’re the top exhibit for a case study of junior doctors.

Citizens. I once asked a class of ‘carers’ and some of them told me that disabled people shouldn’t have the right to marry or have children. So much for breathing … do I need permission for that too?


If you consider yourself as needing needs one to four, you may be a special person too!!! Before you go off to register for benefits, I am out to disappoint you. As you can see, the needs that many non-disabled people call ‘special’ are really well ordinary… The only difference is that as a wheelchair user I have the luxury of using wheels instead of dragging my feet along everywhere. Moreover, I can close my eyes and relax listening to “War and Peace” if I wanted to – although sleeping there is high risk.

Don’t get me wrong, I have non-disabled and disabled friends. But think carefully when using words such as ‘special’ which sound nice on the surface but are really no different than calling me an alien, or not part of us (humans?).


To modify slightly the credo of the animals of “Animal Farm”, although we state that every person is unique and special, it seems that disabled people are ‘more special than others’. Which invariably means that we must be provided for separately in spite of the fact that our needs, in whatever means they are fulfilled, are the same as the person next to you (ignore this if you're on your own).


Off for my special lunch ...!

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