Tuesday, January 21, 2014

3 Disability "Red Flags"

These aren’t quite “triggers”. They don’t provoke traumatic memories for me. They are things related to disability that make me angry or just rub me the wrong way, and more than just minor, everyday irritations.

This is probably going to be the first installment in a series …

image of a red flag1. Parents who sentimentalize their disabled / “special needs” children. Of course, lots of parents dote on their children, especially when they’re really young and adorable. I’m talking about parents who speak and write about children with disabilities in one or both of two specific ways:

- Their tone of voice and choice of words are what we expect in talking about kids 5 and younger, but applied to “kids” of all ages, including adults, who are disabled.

- They refer to their children in spiritual, quasi-religious terms. They are “angels”, “blessings”, or “miracle babies”.

This is definitely not all parents of kids with disabilities, but this tone is pretty prominent in the dialogs from parents that make it to mainstream media and even Internet discussions … and it makes me squirm.

2. When professionals who serve people with cognitive impairments try to refute arguments about freedom and autonomy by explaining that we just don’t understand all the problems they have to deal with, because we have physical disabilities. The implication is that our standards of human rights and dignity are not applicable for people with cognitive impairments / intellectual disabilities. This usually happens when the professionals are trying to justify policies and practices that I think they know on some level are outdated, cruel, and wrong.

3. Whenever people with one kind of disabilities either explicitly or covertly minimize or disparage the concerns of people with other kinds of disabilities. I’ve seen this happen in impatience over the details of specific accommodations in meetings, in questioning the validity of certain kinds of “gray area” disabilities, and in the cultural / experiential differences between people born with disabilities and those who became disabled later in life. I’ve been guilty of all of these things, by the way, but they still bother me a lot.

What are your personal Disability Red Flags?

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