Another year is almost over. just a few days left to the celebration of Christmas, and another New Year. Once again, we celebrate International Disabled People’s Day..
I admit that, in spite of being a disabled person since I was a boy, it’s only in the last ten years or so that I am comfortable with identifying myself as a “disabled person”. Indeed, for most of my life I did my best to pass on as “normal” - whatever that means.
There are still so many misconceptions that exist about disabled people. Many try to try to appear politically correct or sensitive by using euphemisms such as “differently abled”, ‘challenged” or “people with special needs”.
Sadly, some of us choose to adopt these terms. I know - I did take a fancy to "special needs" in my childhood. However, now that I've grown in my understanding, I realise that these apparently positive terms some people use to define who we are also empty in meaning and can be counter-productive. But I already discussed all this in another entry . The truth may well be that people use such words simply because they are uncomfortable with our impairment and can't deal with it.
Thus, one my hear well meaning people making the point that we should “put the person first”. Of course, that is very good. However, it shouldn’t be taken to extremes. Let me explain. Sure, we are people first, our impairments don’t define who we are. Yet, they remain part of who we are. A non-disabled person may think of the fact I’m a wheelchair user and visually impaired as some sort of tragedy.
Yet, if I hadn’t become a wheelchair user or acquired a visual impairment, I probably wouldn't had met the people I met or had the experiences I had - some good or bad. The point is that while many non-disabled people seek ways to “fix” us, many of us are happy with our bodies.
Obviously, I am not saying that treatment for painful conditions or to prevent impairment is not sought but that we’re ready to accept disabled people for who they are. Given our bodies, judge them as you may, are our only means of reaching out to society, then yes, this includes our bodies.
Ignoring the fact that we have impairments, indeed, is the real cause of our disability. My impairments were never the cause of all my problems. It was often society in the way it structured society and looked at me as if I was never meant to be on this planet.
My message is one. Yes, we are persons, like any other human being. Again, like anyone else, we interact with the world through our body, mind and senses. We may be physically and intellectually different but if you really want to include us as persons, you must also acknowledge our differences...
Our common humanity!
Enjoy disabled people’s day and the rest of the week!
PS: Be patient with non-disabled persons. They try to help but don’t always get it right ;)