You Say “Disabled” Like It’s a Bad Thing (1/3)

Disabilities are numerous and diverse, ranging from illnesses to impairments to differences discriminated against culturally. Disabilities are experienced in different ways by the people who have them, and a person with multiple disabilities may want accommodation for one and a cure for another. Under the social model definition, a difference or impairment becomes disabling when it is not properly accommodated. Society disables some people. In my culture, having trouble with numbers is a serious challenge while failing to keep a drum beat is of no dire consequence. While society

Most societally abled people imagine they would not like to be disabled. They see disability as inability, impediment, and barrier. I confess, I have no love for my arthritis or my IBS. They do not make me a better person, or give me special artistic insight, or bring me closer to purity. They mostly just hurt. So it can be very confusing or even offensive to abled people when a disabled person suggests that, all things considered, they’d like to keep their condition just get better accommodation. Today I’m going to look at three disabled communities with members who say they like being the way they are.

Cerebral palsy is the most common disability in childhood, resulting from brain injury around the time of birth, often due to oxygen deprivation. People with CP may not speak verbally, may use wheelchairs some or most of the time, or may walk with a pronounced limp. Fine motor skills may be harder to develop or may never develop as fully as in others. Someone without CP may look at these symptoms and rightly imagine they are challenging. However, some adults with CP think those challenges were crucial to making them who they are and helping them develop the skills and perseverance they have.

Writing for United Cerebral Palsy, Daman Wandke asked “Where would I be today without CP? I wouldn’t be consulting with large companies on how they can improve their IT accessibility.I wouldn’t be advocating side-by-side with national leaders for the disability community.  Yes, my body works differently but it’s not broken, nor sick, nor does it need to be cured.” Writing at her own blog for World CP Day, Ila’s Crazy Thoughts blogger had this to say:


“CP made me who I am, it is a part of me and the challenges I face make me a stronger person. The days in the hospital and the hours of therapy taught me to appreciate the small things in life. Without my disability, learning to put my shoes and braces on by myself wouldn’t have been such a big accomplishment. I think that is one of the reasons why I am always so happy.”

World Cerebral Palsy Day was created by people with CP, with a goal of “[p]utting an end to ignorance and the stigma it can create, by building a true understanding of what CP is (and is not). The objective is nothing less than to create cultural change so that everyone in a society embraces people with CP as brothers, sisters and full citizens.” Proper medical prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of CP was another stated goal. A cure for the people already living with CP wasn’t.


Check back tomorrow for Part 2 of this post series, on the Deaf and Autistic communities.

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