A Christmas challenge

On one of the blogs I follow, a challenge was raised. The blogger had been asked what she wanted for Christmas and, searching her life, discovered she had as close to everything she wanted as was needed, but wanted one thing further – a change in general attitudes towards disabled people.

Her precise words were that she wanted ‘For each and every person reading now to share with the world the secret that far too few people know: that people with disabilities rock

This comes from a very personal motivation – she has two children with disabilities and wants them to experience life in a world where people accept them as normal. Yes, with different capabilites, norms and expectations, but normal. Merely a sub-set of the human race, in the way that ‘people who drive’, ‘vegetarians’ or ‘people with children’ are sub-sets of the human race.

Another post of hers ruminated on which word people found least offensive; ‘nigger’, ‘faggot’ or ‘retard’. I’ll give you a clue – it’s neither of the first two (well, it might be if you’re from Wales or the middle of England, where a faggot is a nice porky dumpling thing which you eat with gravy, but we’re talking about the other kind of faggot).

What is it that makes people with disabilities so set apart?

Is it because sometimes people with disabilities look different? Because they speak differently? Because they’re not able to do some of the things we take for granted that we can do? Because they’re not smart?

Is it purely a kickback to the times when we lived in tribes and hadn’t the resources or ability to care adequately for someone with extra needs, so they were quietly disposed of – a kind of survival of the fittest? (A colleague of mine from South Africa tells me that ‘in the bush’, you just don’t find disabled people – they’re got rid of once they’re born for fear that they’d damage the chances of survival of the whole group)

Is it a misguided spiritual thing left over from myth – that a disabled child is either a punishment for your wrongdoing or a curse from an evil deity?

Is it a random accident which renders them less worthy of life than ‘proper’, ‘whole’ people?

Whatever it is, it’s not modern thinking. It’s not western thinking, and it’s not on.

And I’d like to include people with mental health problems in here. Whilst not an obvious disability in the way that, say, Cerebral Palsy is, they can be incapacitating, can cause significant difficulties in managing everyday life (for the person with the problem and those around them) and are probably the most taboo of special needs. One of my friends-and-relations recently posted this picture on facebook – chilling but close to the bone regarding how ‘people’ view conditions such as depression, bipolar disorder, eating disorders, ADD, ADHD and the like.

I guess in a way I’m taken back to my post yesterday about what makes people worthwhile.

It’s just that  – they’re people. We’re all people.

We all rock.

…sometimes we just gotta learn to behave better towards one another.

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4 thoughts on “A Christmas challenge

  1. Yes that's poorly worded. It should be 'physically'. And if you notice, I'm not in any way trying to present it as a 'less serious' form of disability – which is why I am highlighting it and adding it to the piece in the first place.

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  2. I think I will 'borrow' that picture.
    If only it was not so true.
    In 2006 the Disability Rights Commission published a report about the health of people with severe and enduring mental illnesses and people with Learning difficulties.
    Die 15 years younger than others.
    Why? poorer physical health, one reason given diagnostic overshadowing assuming that symptoms are mental health not physical health. People have experienced so much discrimination from society and professionals that they are scared to seek help earlier.
    Love your blog you have inspired me to sign up to google. May even start my own blog!

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  3. I take exception to your saying that mental health problems are 'not specifically a disability in the way that, say, Cerebral Palsy is'. If you check out the Disability Discrimination Act you will find mental illness mentioned on equal terms with physical illnesses. I know you well, and thus I know you don't mean to denigrate mental illness; however, that speaking of it as a 'less serious' version of disability is part of the discrimination that mentally ill/learning disabled people face.

    Just to make you aware 🙂 xx

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