Our understanding of disability in our current society is blocked by misinformation, materialism, and distorted values. The faces of oppression are many; and there is no hierarchy. However, confusion about the oppression of the disabled is a formidable obstacle.
Misinformation about human value, intelligence, and development interfere with our natural desire to care for and participate in relationships with the disabled. Believing in the false notion that productivity is the purpose of our existence, the connection of the disabled in our communities and families is often compromised.
The preservation of our current form of capitalism relies on this confusion. In this distorted value system, a "severely" (noticeably) disabled person has no value. And, the not-so-cost-effective remedy is to eliminate the person, or his or her "type" from the work force, and to turn the person into a "case" or "client," whereupon their dependency can become a source of profit. Unfortunately, the care industry provides low status jobs and the profits mostly go to the owners of these institutions.
When "care" is a commodity our empathy as human beings is submerged. The disabled are systematically dehumanized in our society. The rosters of harms against the disabled are extensive:
(1) Disabled people are discouraged from marrying and procreating (eugenics).
(2) Those with disabilities have a higher risk of becoming victims of verbal abuse and ridicule.
(3) Therapeutic abortions of disabled babies are performed due to the fear of living in an oppressive society with a disabled child.
(4) The thoughts and feelings of the disabled are often ignored and dismissed.
(5) The special needs industry uses distorted models for evaluating intelligence and development, which often destroys the hope and freedom of the disabled person to pursue their personal goals and their constitutional right, the pursuit of happiness.
(6) The glamor industry promotes the ideals of physical perfection, which in turn is internalized by our society; the consequence is often that the noticeably disabled person feels the need to hide from a world that does not want to look upon them.
(7) Our society builds environments that exclude the ability of the disabled to function. Pretending that these forms of oppression are, in fact, necessary, their exclusion from the world of opportunities is falsely justified.
The results are devastating and real. Disfigured veterans and amputees often take their lives just to escape the pain of this rejection. We have a general population that is so confused and frightened by the disabled that they feel the automatic need to avoid relationships with the disabled and to abandon them in their fight for liberation in a world that unfairly limits their freedoms.
Many disabled people resign themselves to lives of isolation. Fortunately, some strong-minded people with disabilities confront the internal oppression and shed the false beliefs that they, in fact, do not deserve better. Choosing to build lives in a world that would otherwise exclude them, these leaders stand up for their rights.
In their quest for emancipation they have uncovered valuable information about themselves and living successfully in the world. This is what they have discovered:
(1) A person's worth is independent of his or her abilities or achievements. They are just as worthy of unconditional love as anyone should be.
(2) You have to know someone in order to love him or her.
(3) Communication is essential for all human beings including the disabled.
(4) Our role in life is not to produce material profits but to have meaningful relationships with the time and opportunity to do this.
(5) Being alone is not independence; independence is being in charge of one's life. The disabled have that right too.
(6) All people can only be of equal value in diverse societies that share a value system that includes everyone.
(7) Exclusion is a form of violence with equally devastating consequences.
(8) The most severely impaired people are the ones most in need of inclusion; they are the ones most in need of meaningful relationships.
(9) I.Q. is not a fixed phenomenon; it is not a reliable test for many and should not be used to reflect a person's worth.
(10) People do not develop along straight lines or at the same rates.
(11) Child rearing is a community responsibility. Every child is my child.
Disabled people have the gift of insight and experience with the "medical model" of thinking, which has trapped them in buildings without closeness. They understand the need for the freedom to live in good purpose with others. They have had the opportunity to develop alternative ideas or "social models" that can provide the infrastructure to empower themselves and to find better access to the world. We need to listen to them. We share an important bond that should not be severed. By envisioning, communicating, and creating something different we can help each other and prevent humans from harming humans because of disability.
Someone recently asked Spadecaller how his disability limits his life. Despite the presumptive question, he answered; “I have more time to smell the flowers.”
The title of the digital photo art above is "Time to Smell the Flowers."