Tag Archives | culture of inclusion

We Need a New Word for “Disability”

I’m stuck on terminology. I’m becoming increasingly disillusioned with the  disability word “disability”.

In my last job, I worked hard with the people I supported to help them realize that they had disabilities and to realize what that meant in their lives. I did this  for two reasons:

  1. The agency’s terminology of choice was “intellectual disability”, in consultation with self-advocates.
  2. “Disability” is so widely used that people really do need to know what it means for them. They need to be able to say, “I have a disability and because of it I need…” and they need to understand “disability” in order to understand and makes decisions about applying for supports that may be available to them.

I didn’t realize until recently though, that I just don’t like that word “disability” anymore. I’ll probably still use it, just because it’s such a socially recognized word, and I’m not sure yet what word I’d use to replace it. But I’ve really started to think about it.

Musings on “Disability”

My arm and leg may work a bit differently than everyone else’s, but they’re still “abled”.  Some of the people I’ve worked with have been plenty more “able” in some areas than I have , even before the stroke – better dancers, better bowlers, even better cooks. And even  though I’m a mediocre dancer, a terrible bowler and can barely cook a thing, I’m not “dis-abled”. In many areas I’m very “abled”.

But what do we replace “disability” with? I was struck by “diffability” when I first heard it, but rejected it for the same reasons that I have “differently abled”: It sounds like we’re trying too hard to put a positive spin in the wrong direction on disability. “Disability” could use some positivity associated with it, but it doesn’t need a spin implying that people with disabilities are different than everyone else.

Besides, everyone is “differently abled” when compared with the people around them. My sister had trouble writing essays in high school, when that was something that came very easily to me. I struggled with math, when that came easily to her. The fact that we’re all differently abled and have opportunities to use our strengths to contribute to society is a good thing, but that aspect of “differently abled” doesn’t come out in the way it’s used now.

“Disability” – What We Need

We need a word that:

  1. Conveys the importance of focussing on commonalities, not differences
  2. Stresses focussing on what people can do, rather than what they can’t do
  3. Uses positive phrasing.

Socially, it should also be a word that we’re prepared to make obsolete. Because if there’s anything I’ve learned about working with people with disabilities for so long, and living with disabilities myself, it’s that the things that *really* disable people and keep them from living “normal” lives are external to them. The barriers that create “disability” are out there in society, and society needs to become prepared to tear those barriers down:

  1. Make buildings/websites/transportation/processes more accessible.
  2. Design supports so that people with disabilities had a better shot at employment, education, income support and appropriate housing.
  3. Make our communities places in which everyone can participate fully and safely.
  4. Open peoples’ minds and hearts and find ways to change attitudes that disable people.

Let’s make the dream to eliminate “disability” and any other words for it completely, so that we all just become people with different strengths and needs trying to live together. Because, really…isn’t that what we are already?

On a totally unrelated note, I’m now writing articles about one-handed living over at Zujava. Check out the first in the series:

http://www.zujava.com/living-the-one-handed-life-general-tips

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Ballet with Disabilities (and Inclusion)…My Saturday Mornings

Recently, I got a ride home from an event with the woman who taught the adultballet with disabilities ballet class in town a few years back. It was a very small class. There were three of us, including me, and then the instructor, Kate. We met for forty-five minutes on Saturday mornings to do relatively simple barre exercises: pliés, and tendus, and frappés, and battements, and several other exercises that I’d forgotten from the ballet training of my pre-high school years. It was all very relaxed, with lots of laughing. There were moments where my right arm would stretch in second position at  the barre and for a brief, wonderful moment, I’d actually feel like a just a dancer again, and not someone giving everyone else a first-hand look into ballet with disabilities.

I gave up the classes when a friend became very ill and I needed to have Saturdays open in case there was an opportunity to travel to the city to visit him. I missed the classes, though. There was a tendu combination that I could never get, that haunted me. Sometimes, when I’d wait for rides outside my apartment building, I’d put my hand up against the wall and practice it. I kept watching Kate’s ballet school schedule to see if she was offering the class, but I never saw it.

So I was very happy to hear from her in the car that day that she actually does keep it running. She just doesn’t advertise it. The same two women come, and she invited me back. I’ve just finished my second week.

Sarah and Ballet with Disabilities

I really liked that class, and still do, because I’m not a person with disabilities when I’m in it. Kate demonstrates what we’re going to do, (“Because we’re her Alzheimer’s class,” my classmate Helen jokes. “It’s all brand new every week!”) and then leaves it up to me to modify the exercise if I have to, in whatever way I have to. Which is awesome, because:

  • My left foot only points very minimally
  • If I’m concentrating on moving my left side, I have *no* turn-out. I’m lucky if I can get my left foot back into proper position if I lift it off the floor
  • Sometimes I forget to move my left arm
  • Sometimes I have to face the barre and grab it with both hands to do some exercises, or I’ll fall over.

Nobody cares that when I do the exercises on my right side, my foot arches nicely and my arm is pretty and that when I do them on my left side…I’m just a mess.  Or that I can’t do a rise, or a grande plié.  And they giggled with me when, after a particular difficult combination, I said,

“I was saying all the instructions in my head along with you, but apparently my foot decided that I could do that all I wanted, but it was just going to sit there in the air.”

(That was was a *tad* worrying, by the way…it felt like my foot was so confused by what was being asked of it, that it just wasn’t even going to try to keep up, if that makes sense.)

But that’s not the point. The point is that at the beginning of my stroke rehabilitation process, I never would have dreamed that I could feel so comfortable in a highly physical environment like a ballet class. And it’s got nothing to do with my abilities – it’s got to do with the attitudes of the people around me.

True inclusion hasn’t got anything to do with ramps and elevators and accommodations of any sort – it has to do with attitudes.

Many of the “Blogging Against Disablism” posts make the same observation – click on the badge on my homepage to read the BADD 2012 posts.

And speaking of ballet with disabilities…it may not be classic ballet, but I dare you not to be amazed by these two young people…

http://spluch.blogspot.ca/2007/12/disabled-dancers-dazzling-ballet.html

P.S. If you’re going to be staying in the New York City area any time soon and you’re looking for a hotel with amazingly accessible rooms, check out the new “Best” on the “Accessibility Bests and Worsts” page…

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Celebrating Developmental Disabilities Month with Inspirational Stories

developmental disabilities month

What makes a home?

Developmental Disabilities Month: What is “Worth” Celebrating?

Today I spent a lot of time searching the Internet for another story like Dr. Jan Brunstrom’s to blog on, as part of my continuing celebration of Developmental Disabilities Month. I know they’re out there.

But today my search skills just weren’t up to par and my Google search alert for news stories about disability just hadn’t sent me what I’d asked for. I could find lots of stuff about Developmental Disabilities Month, but I couldn’t find anything even approaching what I wanted to blog about: a story of a person with a developmental disability in a highly-respected profession, making a contribution to society that was going to make people really think about the assumptions that they held about about the capabilities of people with developmental disabilities.

In the process, I completely dismissed a story about a ninety-year-old woman with a developmental disability who’d made a new life for herself in a community home after spending most of her life in an institution. And later on in the day, that decision really caused me to think: Had I overlooked something that really *was* something that I wanted to blog about for Developmental Disabilities Month?

Life in the Institutions: A Bit of Background for Our Developmental Disabilitites Month Discussion

It wasn’t so long ago that babies with developmental and/or intellectual disabilities were given a very grim prognosis. Doctors told families that the best way to deal with these children was to institutionalize them. The institutions weren’t nice places.

Senator Robert Kennedy called the Willowbrook State School, an institution on Staten Island, a “snake pit” in 1965. At that point it was housing more than 2000 residents than it was supposed to, and some residents were being deliberately infected with hepatitis in order to find out more about the disease. Nothing was done about the deplorable conditions at Willowbrook, however, until Geraldo Rivera did a documentary in 1972 about what was happening behind the institution’s wall. There’s footage from the profile on the bottom of the “Home” tab at http://willowbrookstateschool.blogspot.com/ but be warned, it’s very difficult to watch.

There’s also an account on the same web page from a former resident of what life was like at Willowbrook State School (on the “A Voice Behind the Wall – A Look at Life Inside Willowbrook” tab) which is also quite eye-opening, but again difficult to read.

Familiar Stories

I recognize elements from the Willowbrook stories from stories that I’ve heard from stories about institutions in Canada during that period: abuse of all kinds, not allowing residents to have possessions, the lack of privacy and certainly the lack of dignity in the supports. I’ve seen people who used to live in institutions wolf down their meals, and been told it’s because if you didn’t eat your food fast in the institutions, you often got it taken away from you before you finished.

Institutional care, where is still exists (Ontario’s institutions are closed, and most American states are moving in that direction; New Hampshire has closed all its institutions) had to move past this dark era and stop these abuses in order to keep operating. But that’s not to say that abuses still don’t happen. Additionally, from a disability standpoint, it’s very problematic that people are still, in effect, warehoused in places where their opportunities for self-determination, community integration, and opportunities for building a fulfilling life are inherently (and severely) limited.

Celebrating Their Success

As I said, I’ve known people who lived in institutions. When they had to leave, some of them had been there many, many years. Some of them didn’t have any family left, or had never known their family, so they went to live in community homes in towns where they didn’t know anybody. They built lives, with the help of agency and natural supports, that were 180 degrees different than what they’d known in the institutions.

Even when change like that is totally for the better, it’s very stressful. And when I think about what sorts of traumas some of these people may have endured in the institutions, that they may not even have the skills to even properly process, let alone communicate to others…I often wonder how they do as well as they do in their volunteer work and paid jobs and various types of living situations (from group home right up the spectrum to independent living).

Celebrate *All* Achievements During Developmental Disabilities Month

We certainly need to celebrate people like Dr. Jan Brunstrom during Developmental Disabilities Month. She does such wonderful work, and I want to find more people like her to blog about before Developmental Disabilities Month is over.

But we also need to celebrate the very real achievements of people with developmental disabilities who are thriving in spite of being part of some of the very worst that society has thrown at that demographic. They’re still here – that’s pretty darn amazing. Certainly worthy of inclusion in Developmental Disabilities month celebrations. I forgot about that this morning.

So, in light of that realization I came to today, and in further celebration of Developmental Disabilities month, here’s the article about Virginia Hinson,  the 90-year-old woman that I glossed over this morning because her achievements didn’t seem dramatic enough. My apologies to her.

http://www.voaky.org/Content-Conversion/DELETE/Sucess-Stories/Developmental-Disability-Success-Story

 

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March is Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month

The title says it all. March is Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month. What

developmental disability awareness month

Autism is a developmental disability

should that mean for us?

What is a Developmental Disability?

The definition of developmental disability changes slightly from state to state (and province to province, in Canada), but the definition used by the Developmental Disabilities Act of the United States is as follows:

“The term ‘developmental disability’ means a severe, chronic disability of an individual 5 years of age or older that:

1. Is attributable to a mental or physical impairment or combination of mental and physical impairments;
2. Is manifested before the individual attains age 22;
3. Is likely to continue indefinitely;
5. Results in substantial functional limitations in three or more of the following areas of major life activity;
(i) Self-care;
(ii) Receptive and expressive language;
(iii) Learning;
(iv) Mobility;
(v) Self-direction;
(vi) Capacity for independent living; and
(vii) Economic self-sufficiency.

5. Reflects the individual’s need for a combination and sequence of special, interdisciplinary, or generic services, supports, or other assistance that is of lifelong or extended duration and is individually planned and coordinated, except that such term, when applied to infants and young children means individuals from birth to age 5, inclusive, who have substantial developmental delay or specific congenital or acquired conditions with a high probability of resulting in developmental disabilities if services are not provided.”

(From http://www.md-council.org/resources/dd_definition.html)

Here are some examples of developmental disabilities:

  • Cerebral palsy
  • Epilepsy
  • Autism
  • Hearing loss
  • Down syndrome
  • Spinal injury
  • Brain injury

Developmental Disability Fun Fact, in Honour of Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month

Having a developmental disability doesn’t necessarily mean that a person has an intellectual disability.

I’m surprised by how many people who work in my field don’t know this. Many of the people with conditions on the list above are very intelligent. There’s even a debate within some agencies that support people with autism whether they should be supporting individuals who have it without supporting documentation that these individuals have intellectual disabilities as well.

What Will Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month Mean for You?

I think that, for me, Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month will me doing pretty much what I try to do already, with a focus on developmental disabilities – raising awareness of what they are, celebrating the achievements of people who have them, and continuing to bust stereotypes where I can of people with developmental disabilities. Because it would be really nice if society got to the point where we didn’t need a month for people with developmental disabilities, because they’re just…people. Don’t you agree?

 

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What Now, Rosie O’Donnell?

So, I’ve been keeping an eye on reaction to Rosie O’Donnell’s interview with Chelsea Handler overRosie O'Donnell the last couple of days.

Disappointing, to Say the Least. Rosie O’Donnell’s Taken a Beating Over This.

People have been saying some very nasty things about Rosie O’Donnell (and to her, if her Twitter feed is anything to go by). I was shocked by the venom of some of the comments that I heard had appeared on Matt Roloff’s (of The Learning Channel’s “Little People, Big World”) Facebook page, but when I investigated tonight it looked as if those comments had been removed. The remaining ones, calling Rosie O’Donnell things like “loudmouth” and “ignorant” and accusing her of planning the whole piece as a way to get the Roloffs on her show (in response to call from Matt Roloff for compassionately helping Rosie O’Donnell to move past her anxieties about little people) were difficult enough to read.

I don’t think that Rosie O’Donnell is blameless here. I think that she didn’t choose the most sensitive way to express what she was trying to say, and I understand why people are angry. But, as a person who is “different”, I have always said that I’d rather that people express the ways in which my disabilities make them anxious, if this is an issue, and ask me whatever questions that they need to in order to alleviate their anxiety. I’m not going to fault her for doing that, especially when it obviously does make her feel ashamed that she feels that way.

Rosie O’Donnell…Meet Me at Camera Three

I’ve been reading your Twitter feed and see how frustrated you’re getting at apologizing over and over and not being sure what else you can do. I think, if I was a little person, what I’d want to hear now is what you plan to do now that you’ve admitted to the world that you suffer from this anxiety.

I think that you can understand this. You only have to imagine a conversation between two people where one described how she’d grown up in a house where she was taught that same-sex attraction was something to be fears and that was lesbians made her anxious, even though it made her ashamed to feel that way; how she couldn’t understand how lesbians had sex; how she couldn’t wrap her mind around the idea of two women being attracted to each other, couldn’t reconcile that with her conceptions of healthy relationships…and I’m sure you’d not only wholeheartedly suggest that if he or she really want to get over this anxiety, there are resources that he or she can access to have questions answered, and that she should try to find some lesbians in loving relationships with whom she can spend some time and get to know, so that she can see that they’re not that much different than everyone else: people with jobs and children and good times and bad times that contribute to their communities and live in loving relationships…just with other women.

And I’m sure that you’d know to suggest that if the anxiety has reached the stage where it’s very disruptive to her life, maybe professional help is warranted. Phobia treatments are very effective and actually work quite quickly when the individual is really committed to them.

Of course, you don’t owe anyone details about what you plan to do now, if anything. But you keep asking on your Twitter feed, “I’ve apologized…what more can I do?” Maybe sharing that you plan to do something will heal some wounds.

For the Rest of Us

Enough of the attacking rhetoric and the name-calling. You don’t create a more inclusive world by calling *anyone* names, no matter how intolerant you think they’re being. It really just brings you down to the level at which that you believe they are.

Don’t make me say it again.

Matt Roloff’s Facebook Page:  http://www.facebook.com/RealMattRoloff

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Time to Rethink Sheltered Workshops?

A class action suit was filed on January 25th in Portland, Oregon on behalf of the Cerebral Palsy sheltered workshopsAssociation (Oregon chapter) and eight individuals with intellectual disabilities. The first of its kind in any state, the suit claims that sheltered workshops as they are run now in Oregon are in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitations Act.

http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/sns-rt-us-oregon-disabled-lawsuittre80p07g-20120125,0,7475636.story

Very interesting. I hope they win, and that similar suits are filed in other states. It wouldn’t hurt to see some more action in Canada on this either, although there’s already been significant action in Canada to move away from the sheltered workshop model.

I’ve Heard the Arguments for Keeping Sheltered Workshops

  • Parents and caregivers like them because they give people with intellectual disabilities a place to go for the day.
  • People who have been in sheltered workshops for a long time often like them because it is a place to go during the day where they can be with their peers, do some work and make a bit of money.
  • It’s an easy way to give people with intellectual disabilities some employment opportunities.

Those Arguments for Keeping Sheltered Workshops Don’t Work for Me

  • People with intellectual disabilities deserve more than a “place to go for the day”. Agencies should not be providing baby-sitting services or warehousing facilities. As the article points out, that’s going back to the days of institutions.
  • If a person with disabilities wants to meet up with other friends who have disabilities, why come to a sheltered workshop to do it? Why not go for lunch or coffee, or visit someone at their home, like people without disabilities do?
  • Why do a job in a sheltered workshop setting and not receive adequate compensation when a person with an intellectual disability can do the same job out in a community setting, get paid for the work, make new friends and have new experiences? Isn’t money better spent on providing the support people need to obtain those kinds of employment opportunities?

Oregon Service Providers, Meet Me at Camera Three…

I  know how you guys thought this was a best practice, but you’ve got to look at how you’re coming across, and ask yourself if sheltered workshops are really the best way to meet the needs of the people you support.

Service providers are the ones supposed to be setting the good example for everyone else, by promoting the importance creation of opportunities for them to participate with dignity, equality, and full inclusion. What kind of message does it send to your communities when you, as service providers, keep them sequestered in buildings, without opportunity for interaction with the community, paying them less than minimum wage for jobs?  What kind of message does it send to the people you support?

Think about it.

 

 

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Cultures of Inclusion

As we move into a society where creating cultures of inclusion for people with disabilitiescultures of inclusion becomes more and more important, administration of social institutions in particular need to remember two words: top-down.  It’s all about creating cultures of inclusion that start from the very top of the organizational hierarchy and pervade the entire organization, touching the person at the very bottom of the hierarchy.

*Your* Part in Creating Cultures of Inclusion

“You set the tone,” Dr. Greene (Anthony Edwards) said to young Dr. Carter (Noah Wyle) in the opening episode of the long-running “ER” series. This is true. We do set an example for others by how we interact with people with disabilities in all areas of life: at work, church, on the street, in the grocery store, at our kids’ hockey games, in PTA meetings…wherever we are. Chances are that if you’re in a group, someone there has some sort of disability, even if it isn’t visible.

Management’s Part in Creating Cultures of Inclusion

In organizations, though, management has an extra responsibility to “set the tone”. The phrase “culture of inclusion” describes an atmosphere where the staff in organizations and the people that they serve are comfortable with the fact that people are different and where people are treated with respect and dignity, as full community members, despite their differences. Good managers are aware of the legislation surrounding disabilities and hiring practices and know the advantages of having a diverse staff.  When managers embrace the ideals of cultures of inclusion, it filters down in their policies, the day-to-day of the organization, and the way the organization, whether profit or non-profit, serves the community.

Schools and Cultures of Inclusion

School administrations in particular can have a powerful effect by creating cultures of inclusion among students. Special education programs have been hit hard with budget cuts, and many students who would have had classroom Educational Assistant support in the past will not get it now. But perhaps this will spur educators to think outside the box about the nature of supports that students actually need:

  • Given the intensity level, frequency and duration of support that a student needs (not to mention what subjects interest them and what they’d like to do after graduating!), do they really need an EA?
  • If the student has an intellectual disability and is low-functioning (for lack of a better word), are there some classes that might interest them as an observer? A music class? A gym class?
  • Could volunteer students from the school go with some of the students in segregated special education classes to noon hour events?

Everyone can benefit from seeing students with disabilities participate in school events, and students with disabilities, especially those in segregated special education classrooms, often welcome the opportunities to meet other students and make new friends. In some schools, there isn’t much of a chance for anyone to get to know students in segregated classrooms, and that doesn’t promote cultures of inclusion.  Positive relationships with people with disabilities as children and young adults is going to carry over into adulthood for students without disabilities. Also, these relationships enrich the lives of people with disabilities. Particularly for people with intellectual disabilities, they’re an opportunity to try new things and learn valuable interpersonal skills. It’s very important that school administrators create opportunities for these relationships to happen.

Even cultures of inclusion that seems forced at first can develop into something more organic and spontaneous, and can benefit everyone.  Read about the Heads Up for Inclusion project, which focused on developing cultures of inclusion in several Ontario schools:

http://www.headsupforinclusion.ca/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=3&Itemid=5

So, managers, remember…top-down! *You* set the tone for your organization when it comes to how people with disabilities are treated.  Set a good one.

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Lost a Limb…Regrow a Limb?

Hello again!  I hope that everyone had a great Christmas and that you’re all looking forward to New Year’s!lost a limb

I spent Christmas with my family, at my sister’s house. I got lots of opportunities to play with my little niece and work on my techniques for making her smile and laugh, holding her the way she likes (so that she can see everyone), and picking her up. I’m very aware that there are many childcare that skills I that I haven’t yet mastered, but with each visit with her I feel more and more confident about my ability to look after her using one arm.

I think that’s why I’ve been a bit grumpy about a commercial that I’ve been seeing on television recently. It’s one of those commercials where people with various ailments and their doctors talk about how “We *will* find a cure for ____” (cancer, diabetes, etc.), and of course I know that these research efforts are very important. Besides my AVM (which is not supposed to be hereditary, but I’ve stories that suggest that they do seem to run in families), women on my mother’s side tend to die young from cancer, and there’s stroke and diabetes on my father’s side…it’s not exactly comforting.

Lost a Limb? We Can Cure You!

The part of the commercial that annoys me is when the young doctor comes on and says, “We *will* find a way to regrow limbs.”  Granted, I haven’t lost a limb, but I pretty much live one-handed, and I don’t feel like I miss out on a whole lot. I actually wrote about this in article right before Christmas, about how I’d once talked with a woman online who couldn’t understand why her blind date hadn’t told her before their date that he was missing a hand. I suggested that perhaps he was fine with the fact that he was missing a hand and didn’t see any need to tell her. But clearly she’d had a problem with it.

When I hear things like, “We *will* find a way to regrow limbs,” I feel the same way. I feel like it’s society saying to people who have lost a limb, “We have a problem with you being like this, so we are going to cure you,” when many of these people may not a problem at all with how they are living.  Society has the problem with the disability, not the person living with the disability.

Lost a Limb: Accessibility Woes

Not that navigating society without a limb isn’t difficult, particularly if one has to use a wheelchair. However, much of that difficulty with being in a wheelchair happens because accessibility is so slowly becoming a priority.  I can speak from experience on this one…it’s not so miserable being in a wheelchair when buildings, spaces and transportation are accessible. Again, it’s been society’s problem with people with disabilities that’s made having disabilities difficult. Thank goodness that’s changing.  It will be interesting to see whether medical science can regrow a limb by the time that all Ontario buildings have to be physically accessible (2025).

Lost a Limb, But Still OK!

I’m fine with having little function in my left arm and hand. There are some things that I obviously can’t do, but I manage. I went through a process of becoming fine with who I am with those impairments, as I imagine I would if I lost a limb.

Perhaps some people would welcome medical interventions that took away their disabilities. I’m not saying I wouldn’t try an intervention myself if it could bring back a lot of function in my arm and hand. But the blanket assumption that all people who have lost a limb want/need to be “cured” bothers me. It suggests that they’re not good enough, or can’t have productive, fulfilled lives,  the way they are right now.

And that’s simply not true.

 

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International Day of Persons with Disabilities

International Day of Persons With Disabilities

international day of persons with disabilities

December 3  is the International Day of Persons with Disabilities. It’s a day to celebrate the contributions of people with disabilities and to raise awareness about their rights.

I knew that I wanted to blog about this in some way today, and I spent a lot of time thinking about it last night, and kept coming back to what Michael Bloomberg saying that having making all the cabs in New York accessible wasn’t necessarily what people with disabilities wanted.

What Do People With Disabilities Want?

I’m not a scholar in the field, but I’ve worked with people with disabilities for over fifteen years, and I’ve been living with my own disabilities for over a decade. I think that our needs are fairly simple.

  1. Access to Buildings When we’re cut off from buildings and from areas in buildings, we’re cut off from experiences and from participating fully in the community. We don’t have choices and opportunities that everyone else has.
  2. Access to Resources The current struggles to make web pages more accessible, to make menus easier to read, to make the justice system more navigable, etcetera, seem like overkill to some people without disabilities. But when you can’t see a computer webpage because you’re red-green colour-blind, or you can’t read a menu because the print is too small, or you can’t don’t understand what your public defender is saying to you because you’ve got an intellectual disability, you’re at a distinct disadvantage because of your disability.
  3. Respect for Rights and and Knowledge of Responsibilities  People with disabilities need to live in communities where, like everyone else, they have rights and responsibilities. People with disabilities, adults and children, are at a much greater risk for bullying or assault, sometimes by people are supposed to be taking care of them (paid and unpaid). Abuse can come in all forms (verbal, sexual, financial, violation of privacy, theft). Other rights that get disrespected are as follows: the right for a person to make their own decisions about their life, to be in relationships, to try new things, and to make health and/or money decisions. People with disabilities deserve to have rights abuse allegations take seriously, and need to understand that they have the responsibility to behave in ways that respect others’ rights. Failure to do so will result in consequences for them, just as it would for people without disabilities.
  4. Opportunities to be a Part of the Community  Everyone has ways that they can contribute. Community members need to be open to having all sorts of people as volunteers and employees in the community and makes everyone feel welcome at community events.
  5. People-Centred Supports for Assistance When Necessary  Not everyone needs help all the time, but sometimes something comes up with which people need assistance. It’s always nice to know that someone will be there if you need, whether it’s a paid or non-paid support.
  6. Income Support for Those that Can’t Work That Actually Reflects the Current Cost of Living  The amount that individuals receive on the Ontario Disability Support Program  leaves them at a poverty level.

The Challenges

Right now, setting up frameworks within communities where we can ensure that these five things are adequately addressed costs is taking a lot more time than it should. I believe it’s at least partly because educating governments about the importance of getting funding to help address these issues is taking a long time. It’s simply not high-priority.

And I think that’s partly because you can’t appreciate how vital these issues are until you’ve lived them.  I know from experience that it’s difficult to realize how frustrating it is not to be able to get into a favourite restaurant in a wheelchair until you’re in that position.

I didn’t know until a couple of days ago that International Day of Persons with Disabilities existed, and I hope it will bring some much-needed awareness to what still needs to be done.

On the lighter side, here are some people with disabilities whose accomplishments we really need to celebrate on the International Day of Persons with Disabilities:

  1. Rick Hansen
  2. Christopher Reeve
  3. Albert Einstein
  4. Terry Fox
  5. Stephen Hawking
  6. Michael J. Fox
  7. Helen Keller
  8. Ludwig Van Beethoven
  9. Thomas Edison
  10. Charles Darwin

More about the International Day of Persons with Disabilities:

http://www.un.org/disabilities/default.asp?id=1561

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“Differently Abled”

I’ve never been crazy about the phrase “differently abled”. I remember first hearing it

differently abled

More commonalities than differences

when I went away to university, in a school sponsored disability-awareness program, and it always struck me as…trying too hard. I think that I don’t really like it now because it emphasizes the differences between people with disabilities and non-disabled people, more than the similarities.

“Differently Abled” and “It’s All Relative”

I’m not the only one who feels this way, I’ve noticed. I recently read an article by a man who said that he wished that we’d do away with the practice of having non-disabled people spend a day in a wheelchair or otherwise spend time “experiencing” what a person with a person with a disability does (like going blindfolded for a period of time). He says it just emphasizes what people with disabilities *can’t* do, rather than what they can do. Being “differently abled” still means “different”.

But I wrote the phrase “it’s all relative” while replying to a comment yesterday, after having it in my head in the last couple of days, and yesterday I began to think about what it really meant. For instance, I’ve been lamenting the fact that one of my cats is getting a bit…hefty. Especially if compare her to a hamster. But compared to a cow, she’s very light.

And while I may put on my bra strangely compared to women with two hands, my friend on Facebook who broke her hand and had no idea how she was going to get dressed for work told me that I was a lifesaver when I told her how I did it.

Not So Different from You

That wasn’t so long ago…maybe two years. But it was the closest I’ve come to seeing “differently abled” as something accurate and half-way positive. I have a different skill set than people who use two hands do to do daily activities, yes.

But I still do the same activities as able-bodied people. I buy groceries and make food and make my bed and clean my apartment and do my laundry…I’ve gone hiking through the forest and downhill skiing (using something they call a sit-ski) and dancing and travelling on my own…

I think that people with disabilities can choose to look at their “difference” from others as absolute or relative, and that the people who look at it as relative tend to have a more positive view of living life with disabilities.

I may be “differently abled”, but I’m not so different from the rest of you. Really.

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