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

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

DISABILITY PRIDE

I’ve often thought of people’s reaction to the claim that one can be proud to be disabled. Not only do people see this as a contradiction in terms but they tend to label you an extremist.

As a young boy, I was taught to ‘accept’ my impairment. But acceptance doesn’t mean that it’s a good thing to be impaired. On the contrary, it usually implies that you must accept your ‘loss’ or status of inferiority and dependence for good. I cannot accept that for sure. At least not any more.

When I state that I’m proud to be disabled I’m stating a politically charged assertion. Indeed, I put into question the very idea that persons who have no impairments are better than myself. I’m not saying that they’re worse off either but that our difference doesn’t necessarily imply social deviance or even evil.

Sure, we hear that disabled people are loved and should be accepted. In the same instance, we are bombarded with regimes that gear towards rehabilitation and also when all else fails, promise of a miracle cure. This can be both a well marketed medical research programme and even a visit to some holy shrine.

In all cases, however, ‘the message is that impairment’ is bad and preferably avoided. No wonder when I had been interviewed for a local newspaper I was described as a youth ‘fighting on in spite of my impairment’. But I encourage you to put into question this very fact…

I believe that impairment is not the cause of the restrictions I face on a daily basis. Granted, sometimes my impairments do give me problems but I don’t call the mayor to intervene when this happens. Like everybody else, I go to the doctor. But then there are choices that I could make if society recognised me as part of it. Taking me into account involves Things like simply ensuring that a meeting is held in an accessible venue, especially when it’s a public meeting. Or putting accessibility into building plans. Or even ensuring that there’s a solid investment in information communication technology in public places. But then I’ve heard non-disabled people speaking of themselves ...pleading their case … I sometimes forget things, or I once broke my leg, or even still I cannot eat certain foods as I’m allergic to them. That makes me disabled, right?

Wrong! Whilst some of you may encounter a mishap or need to watch what you eat, in your daily life, the restriction that people with impairments like myself encounter are constant. I’ve outlined some of these obstacles in earlier blogs, but suffice it to say that the cultural bias that pervades kills the very possibility of thinking of your impairment as a part of you.

So, we have even disabled people themselves wanting to be err... something they cannot be. And unfortunately yet, this ‘hope’ or ‘expectation’ is reinforced all over again by media journalists. We read titles such as:

BRAVE YOUNG MAN SUCCEEDS DESPITE HIS MULTIPLE IMPAIRMENTS

In a short heading, the fact that one is impaired becomes the ‘challenge’. Or something bad that I must fight against. Great! What this basically means then is that of my body about 30 percent is junk. Of course, they won’t say that out loud but what do terms like ‘dysfunctional’, ‘deformed’ or ‘cripple’ actually imply? Not very nice adjectives if you ask me.

But in truth, why cannot people understand that living with impairment wouldn’t be that bad if society accounted for us. Imagine, there’s everywhere accessible, no longer periods staring at the computer screen if you just wanted to listen to a document, no more crammed toilets, no more searching for a suitable pavement for your pram, no more taxes. Ok, the last one is a bit impossible. But you get the picture…

I am who I am because of my impairments, not in spite of them. People who think otherwise do not know anything about me. Undeniably, it gets difficult if society keeps insisting that I should be happy with whatever I am given. Until they find a way to fix me or get rid of me… Where is the fairness here? Is this justice to assume my life is worthless? Is it even true to state that my life would have been better off without my impairments? Who would I be anyway?

If we believe that racism, sexism, homophobia, xenophobia, etc. etc. are wrong, why do we take it for granted that people with impairments are the weaker members of the community? Or that we are less fortunate? A common error that people make is that they think that my impairments are my problems. Bad luck, isn’t it? And even there, what is the problem with my impairments? Are they really the problem? Why is it then so easy for me to navigate and get around at home or the office and it’s hell when I try some other place? Have I changed bodies? The only difference between here and there is that where I live I have an environment that welcomes me whilst in some other place; wheelchair users are just not welcome.

Now call me any name you want, I am proud to be disabled. My impairments are part of me. Denying them would be denying part of me. And that would really be a pity ... take my word for it!

MORE ON DISABILITY PRIDE

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