Special needs adoption from a Jewish perspective.

Special needs adoption from a Jewish perspective.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Ableism and Disableism Part 2

I realize that in my previous post, I talked about ableism, but what is dis-ableism?

There seem to be two contradictory streams in disability advocacy.  One says (as I pointed out last time),

Never mind what these children cannot do -- look at all they CAN do!

While the other says,

It's not about ability at all!  They have value as individuals even if they can do nothing at all!
Which camp you are in affects which treatments you will pursue, which educational opportunities you will endorse, and in general color every aspect of your advocacy.

Of course, the two statements are not necessarily contradictory: People have value as individuals, and should STILL be celebrated for their accomplishments.  People should be treated as equals, AND be given the opportunity to develop their abilities, whatever those are.  As I said in the comments, I am severely nearsighted.  I would NOT want society to "value" my disability by refusing to treat it.  Technology -- from simple eyeglasses to laser surgery -- has made it possible for my disability to be fully mainstreamed.  There are very rare occasions when it gets in my way.  Yesterday I did some tubing with my daughter, so I had to leave my glasses behind. I was dependent on her to recognize the motorboat driver.  That is not a disability "because society defines it as such" -- it is something very useful that I was not able to do for myself.  I imagine that it is similar with most disabilities: They can be compensated for by increased dependence on others in society, either individually or collectively.  And certainly, dependence on others is preferable to isolation -- if I could not find the motorboat driver, I would have missed the ride! Society should absolutely work on inclusion and valuing all individuals regardless of ability.  But valuing individuals with disabilities is NOT THE SAME as valuing the disabilities themselves.  Options should be offered for people with disabilities to ameliorate them, just as options are available for nearsightedness.  Not all people would choose them. There are some people with mild vision problems who choose not to use corrective technologies.  But that is an individual choice.  Likewise, society should strive to give people with other disabilities options for overcoming those disabilities.  These may well include societal changes, but most people benefit from actual treatment, as well. Refusing to treat disability under the guise of "valuing" it is what I think of as dis-ableism.

Part of this feeds into the value we assign to "diversity". What does diversity mean?  I don't really think that people are truly capable of "celebrating diversity", nor would it necessarily be good if we did.  Diversity refers to a collection of "others". In an inclusive society, we see each other's common humanity first, and the differences as minor. But that means that the commonality is what is valued. We find the differences interesting, but not crucial. However, even in a closed society, there are many differences which are discounted. In both cases, it is not the "other" which is celebrated! It is just different characteristics which are "othered".  Basically, a community that values diversity maximizes that which it sees as common, and minimizes that which is seen as "other".  But that which is seen as "other" is still shunned, not celebrated (e.g. a Republican at most Liberal colleges....)  If we see people with disabilities as "other", then ableism is a justification for discrimination.  However, if we see them as "same" as anyone else, then ableism can spur research and development of technologies and therapies that expand the options available to people who would otherwise be dependent on others (individually or collectively) to function equally in society.

People with disabilities are CAPABLE!

Their ABILITIES are worth celebrating!

Look at all that our kids CAN DO!

1 comment:

  1. I just wanted to thank you for the correction of my grammar, lol :) and giving me a new blog to read. Have a blessed day and thanks again :)


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