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

Sunday, October 15, 2006


As I went on writing additional parts to this post after being inspired by a medical symposium last Thursday , I was naturally exposed (intentionally or otherwise) to different ideas and experiences that set me thinking further on the way people view my impairments…

And funnily enough one story that popped up in my mind was none other than the Hans Christian Andersen story called “The Ugly Duckling”. Right, you say… is this going to become a blog where we must get our handkerchief or tissues ready for intensive use?

I can reassure you that the answer is NO! But it’s surprising how this tale touches on the points that I’ve been making on impairment and how it’s often viewed.

The main lesson children learn from this fable (to unlearn it later) is that being different doesn’t make you bad or ‘uglier’ or inferior to others. In fact, your difference should be something to be proud of as it is what makes you unique and in fact who you are. But what happened to the ‘ugly duckling’?

The alleged duckling was simply ostracised by his ‘community’, rejected even by his mother and siblings. Not only that but everywhere he went, he was considered a misfit or as not really someone of true value.
In reality, this is not that dissimilar to what happens when there is a child with an impairment in the family. Whether it be a label of ‘special’ or ‘faulty’, the child is almost always regarded as an outsider to the rest of the family. However, the exclusion of our swan-t-be doesn’t end there…

After he desperately escapes from his community, he ends up in the real world. There too, he is considered to be ‘ugly’ and of less value, or even useless. Whilst in refuge in a house, one of the resident animals (who was sharing with a hen) warned him that if he didn’t learn to purr like himself or start laying eggs like his hen friend, he should start packing. A very warm welcome indeed! But if you compare this to the voice of society when it comes to welcoming a disabled… the similarity is indeed startling

I remember as a child, the many times I have been told that if I couldn’t walk or see as well as others than that was my problem… and walking or now seeing should be my sole reason for being …

Indeed, I did want to be a duck when I was young... err... I meant I wanted to be ‘normal’ (whatever that means) … but now I think that my impairment is something that I shouldn’t be ashamed of. In fact, I have always felt an ‘ugly duckling’ among people who have always told me that I should be quite depressed or unfortunate for not being a ‘duck’ like them… err... I did it again, didn’t I? I meant non-disabled like them.

Jokes apart, I’ve been trying to convey a clear message here. Not that there should be friendly terms between species… but that non-disabled people who have lived apart from us for so long still lump us under one label. Or else make us feel inferior for being who we are.

I clearly remember how once a doctor told a family member whether there was a possibility of ‘fixing my legs’, by this he meant surgery. I was 9 at the time. But the implication was clear. I was loved, yes, but I would be even more loved if I was like the others. That is the ‘walkers’ …

Don’t get me wrong here. I have nothing against non-disabled people… However, there’s always one or two who think that my position in life just because I have impairments is of less importance or that I should hide away somewhere where they can’t see me. The truth?

I want to be respected by non-disabled and disabled people on my own terms. Not by any funny ideas they may have about me but by who I am… And here I discover the swan within …

For despite trying to ‘fit in’… and believe me I’ve tried lots of things… I realised that I couldn’t change my physiology... and why should I? At that, should I then even change my name to reflect how people view me? Wouldn’t be pretty impressive if I could list all my ‘conditions’ behind my surname? Wouldn’t D.M. (my type of arthritis), C.P. (cerebral palsy) and V. I. (visual impairment) look impressive in my future publications (fingers crossed)?

The answer is an emphatic NO even if it were possible to add those titles. People have for long hurt me by discussing me as if I was a variable in the environment or a case study... And this is perhaps why I used the ambiguous title for my post…

The post’s title can be read as meaning “Thou arthritis…”, that is: “You arthritis…” meaning that I suddenly become patient G suffering from condition 123a, please refer to the medical blah blah or really as me suddenly becoming my impairment!

However on close examination, there are actually four words not two and they are:



This is perhaps a more realistic statement of what I encounter on a daily basis: An imposition limited by how I am viewed by a particular society. But would do I want?

I want to be valued as a whole … As a person and as a human being.

And this is not simply a matter of placing me into society as you would a tree or sign post. But rather ensuring that I am given space to express who I am, voice my opinions and make my own choices. Ever tried inserting a square block into a round one? Frustrating! Besides, it’s impossible … unless there are also square holes to accommodate the ‘square’ blocks. I’m not saying that we are squares or circles, or even ducks and swans. I am saying that many only see us for our impairment without stopping to think that there may be other ways of being.

Different, yes, but equally valid. Equally human. Entitled to expressing who we are in every sphere of life we can!