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

Monday, November 27, 2006

THE SPECIAL CHILD

It’s really fascinating how people have come to love calling disabled people, people with special needs… I mean where can you find such love and compassion… or such a courage to move on in life… it’s really very ‘special’ being disabled, having an impairment… and is of course always an excuse to celebrate!!! Or is it?

I am uncomfortable when people call people with impairments ‘special’ with great zeal and enthusiasm. Perhaps the novelty wore off when I realized what people really meant when they called me a a ‘special kid’ or indirectly implied it. If people regarded people with impairments as ‘special’ you would expect them to be in the forefront of public life and society isn’t it true? And you wouldn’t hear the laments of parents who have been given such a ‘terrible’ news that their child will have impairments would you?

I mean if being special was such a great thing, why would people shun it and render the life of these ‘special people’ like myself so difficult? The answer may be simpler than you might think. When people label me ‘special’ they are not doing me any favours.

In fact, ‘special’ to all sorts of people brings really bad memories. A term which can be associated with segregation, separation and even elimination. The worse thing of all is that bringing together people who are different human beings under one single label, however nice it may sound, is actually a tag that emphasizes my difference in such a way as to make it unreal and foreign.

Would you like to be introdyuced as ‘special’ during a social event? Would you like your friends to regard you as ‘special’? And would you liked to be referred to by politicians as ‘special cases’? I don’t think so and neither do I!

I use my wheelchair to get around … does that make my moving around any special?

And like some people use spectacltes to see better, other people may use screen readers to read text or communicate through the use of sign language. Unless you’re not high on some drug, as far as I’m concerned there’s really nothing special about trying to go on about life. But perhaps, there is something special about our life, but not because we have impairments but because we’re alive today and that we’re able to read this.

And it’s really because we’re living today that I can make such statements. Up to a few years ago, the assumption would have been that not only my life was plain useless but that it was also a burden on others. This negative legacy still exists today as I soon discovered when I was growing up. Being labelled a child with ‘special needs’ by others has never really happened to me within my school. But outside of my childhood circle, and also in my adulthoood, the term ‘special’ still evokes very bad memories. I think I owe it to the growing generation of both disabled and non-disabled children living today to destroy the myth of the ‘special chuild’.

For wahat’s the use of flattery and fancy labels such as ‘special’ other than further distancing me from you? And if you made it to this point you probably liked it enough to keep reading. And I don’t have ESP (otherwise I’d be somewhere else, example: Las Vegas) but it’s just common sense…

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

TRAVEL TENSION

This will be my last post at least till next Tuesday as I will be off for a weekend to get into groups with my course in Disability Studies. It will be an occasion where I meet once again the other students on my course. It will be a hectic year and hopefully I’ll get the chance to drop in a post once in a while.

Traveling is one of the things I like doing. But now that I’ve got to plan most of it myself it becomes a logistic nightmare. Well, I’m a very brave and courageous man I know … so I’ll put on my Armour and prepare for my long, long and even longer journey than I could ever imagined.

And this time I’ll also be traveling by train on the way back. Long story… Anyway, for those wondering how a wheelchair user can make the trip to a foreign country it’s not an easy task. But I’m of course as many people say persistent, relentless and an avid risk taker.

Not really, a.

Because considering the many disabling barriers I will face, traveling can become an ordeal and drudgery. Making sure that my wheelchair gets to the destination, ensuring that my luggage gets there, ensuring that I get there in one piece.

All pretty mind boggling if not bone shaking thoughts.

But it must happen. As Trekkies (unlike myself) would put it. I’m preparing…

To boldly go where no man has gone before

Which if I think about it is rather untrue and slightly sexist. But the challenges ahead involve the same old, same old things including lack of access, the usual patronizing pests here and there and perhaps if I don’t remain that cynical I may even find some interesting travelers on my way.

I will have a good time when I’m there for sure. And if my tutors or fellow students are reading this, I’ll be meeting you soon… as well as my other friends who I’m meeting over there. So I’m off to Leeds for some time. That’s what I really wanted to say.

Monday, November 13, 2006

25 YEARS (AND FIVE DAYS) ON

Ok. Last Wednesday was my 25th birthday and I should have really written something on my blog. There has been a lot of goings on in my life that it’s been quite hectic and well confusing. I had to read a lot of material to get me prepared and ready for my trip to the UK as I’m starting my Masters again.

There’s of course the new reality that I face as a blind person returning to the sighted world. But that wouldn’t be an issue if not one of adjustment to another way of viewing the world which is mostly visual and not vocal. Unfortunately, my questioning has brought me to ask myself once again who I am in the present. And one of the issues that still troubles me is the one relating to my status as a disabled person.

For as long as prejudice and structures that deny the worth of my life are rampant out there will not be an end to the reality we call ‘disability’. For despite the facts that point to other directions, my life remains dependant on the very forces that defined me in the past. And I’m not referring to classic images of dependency here. But rather the tendency for society to condition our thinking about what is true or false.

I was born in the year 1981, or the year declared by the United Nations as the International Year of Disabled Persons. It’s perhaps ironic then that I find myself 25 years on writing about the same issues that people with impairments had to face then. I’m obviously surprised to note that the bias against people like me is still ever present, if not stronger, as times go by.

I still feel it’s my responsibility to be on alert to the consequences of any negative presumption, however small, that people may harbor in relation to people they perceive as ‘deviating from the norm’. I want to express my disappointment at being labeled as ‘special’, ‘brave’ or childlike. Assumptions based simply on appearances. I want to dispel the myth that implicitly or explicitly favors one form of body over another.

This myth is a product of many hands, be it some doctors, some religious leaders, some media directors, some media producers or some news producers, etc. etc. The story of the myth has many origins but essentially they silently agree on one thing… that the life people like me live is really worse off than theirs.

And 25 years on I do laugh at these views. For these people are really limited in their perspective on my reality. And yet, these pronouncements sadly still retain the status quo. In effect, they also deny that an alternative physical, sensory or even intellectual reality is as valid or as significant as the ‘regular’ experience of life.

Now I’m still awaiting those presents… hope they are not wrapped up in packing that would take me days to unwrap!!!

Sunday, November 05, 2006

ANOTHER VOICE IN THE WILDERNESS?

PART 2

The thing that I know is that once I became ‘blind’ I must have taken on board all the things I thought I knew about blind people. I was lucky enough to have started meeting other blind people early on as I would have suddenly found myself not only left out but also totally misunderstood by others. All thanks to a culture that excludes people with impairments from being there. And as people, not as trophies or symbols!!!

As a wheelchair user, now, I deem that it would be a similarly overwhelming experience for a non-disabled person to find himself or herself with an impairment overnight. I’m not saying that there is no shock or fear involved. But it just wouldn’t be that difficult if disabled people were more visible and that means that our structures are geared towards inclusion from the start. But as all we have is geared only towards a particular view of ‘personhood’, the shift will be gradual. But it must start…

True, there are features of my body that will remain my own concern. I don’t expect otherwise… but the fact remains that for me to escape the patronising pest I mentioned earlier, I must rebuild the building with an accessible exit route… fast… because in those few minutes I cannot change his/her attitude…

And the thing is that it’s not a mere question of attitude or culture. People with impairments have been demonised, ridiculed, pathologised and even sanctified. But they have never been truly part of the ‘civilised world’. At least not on their own terms.

Both ‘culture’ and ‘environment;’ are integral to my inclusion in society. I’m not here to go through a daily test to prove my worth as some non-disabled people would have me do. I’m here to be myself. But right now, people with impairments like myself, are left at the fringes of society.

I have had many dreams as a young boy. But inasmuch as I dream, I know that no dream will become real unless I take action. And that action implies changing the way things are and fighting the status quo.

People may call me many things. And may be I’m just another voice in the wilderness. But even if I wouldn’t want to end up in the middle of the desert any time soon… we must note that the animals and plants which live there call it home… as do some nomadic people…

Is the life of ‘nomads’ any better than others? I just don’t know… but is my life of value? I know it is. But can I be witness to that fact? Not always. And why? Just because some people think that some lives are more human than others. And it’s not simply in the mind but it’s reflected everywhere I look…

End of POST

Saturday, November 04, 2006

ANOTHER VOICE IN THE WILDERNESS?

PART 1

As I relive once again experiences that I thought long gone, I notice that there’s a lot of emotions bubbling up once I get to actually ‘seeing’ what I’m doing. Yes, it’s sometimes overpowering and rather exhausting. But another line of thought crosses my mind here. And a strange one. Why is it so hard to be once again ‘sighted’ when it was part of who I was for over 20 years?

And the answer to that is perhaps that I can notice definite changes in the amount of choices I can make. Before you charity supporters start taking notes here, I feel that it’s not the change in my senses that have made this leap. True, I can now appreciate the visual more but there are many aspects of life than meet the eye (literally).

The lack of choices that I felt as a blind person were more tied to the fact that people took for granted the fact that:

People can see

People who cannot see are not part of us

The second fact is more or less implied. I remain bewildered now that as a wheelchair user I still have to face the occasional stare and comment … but what really bugs me is when I find a flight of steps to the only route of escape from such individuals…

END OF PART 1