Before I start this post, I wish to apologise for my long absence. The truth of the matter is that I haven’t been well for a long while and so, I wasn’t up to writing on here- - although I’ve been regularly updating my blog, ZoneMind. I admit that these were difficult times and I needed time to think about my life and to reflect on the future ahead. Not that this is a process that will ever finish and I feel the need to explore my life through a different perspective, in this case from the point of view of Buddhism. I have said many times that I respect the fact that everyone has a right to believe what he or she wishes - as long as this doesn’t cause harm to others.
It’s here that I come to the topic of my post, which is the misconception that disabled people are sick people. I realised that this idea is still prevalent after a disabled friend of mine received an invitation to attend a mass for “the sick” on the occasion of the events that happened in Lourdes, France where it’s claimed that the virgin Mary appeared to a young girl and where many claim that they have been healed. Putting it in those words might give you the impression that I am a non-believer. But the truth of the matter, I have a healthy scepticism about miracles. While I can’t rule out the possibility of miracles, I don’t think that living hoping for a miracle is a good way to live a life. But then I ask, why did my friend receive an invitation intended for these so-called “sick people”.
The simple answer is that, more often than not, disability is associated with sickness or disease. To be exact, impairment is associated with sickness and not disability. This is because disability is the disadvantage imposed on us as people with impairment in refusing to include us as other members of society. In this sense, the link between impairment and sickness implies that disabled people lack an aspect of being human and that they need to attain the approval of the non-disabled world to be accepted and, even then, on non-disabled terms. While disabled people, like anyone else, can get sick, this doesn’t imply we are sick, broken or unfortunate. Even those who are sick most of the time and would be considered “sick people” shouldn’t be defined just but that situation.
Unfortunately, this idea that disabled people are sick is not limited to particular religious outlooks but are also endemic to the medical profession. The consequences can be disastrous for the person who is defined over and over as faulty and as not fully human. We’re not sick people. We’re not special people either. We’re only different and these labels only serve to disable us further.