In an attempt to fight discrimination against those that are disabled or diagnosed with long term conditions it seems that often, those that are seen to be disabled or that are diagnosed with a long term condition are made out to be exceptional individuals, somehow commendable for living with their individual characteristics. Here I am not talking about overcoming a limitation to do something remarkable but rather coping with day to day life as we all do. I refer to characteristics as that is what they are, as opposed to disabilities. But perhaps positive discrimination building up those living with such conditions is doing more harm than good?
Before going on I’d like to approach the definition of a ‘disability’, because the term itself is down to social perception and is defined by one’s idea of what disability actually is. I have a disability… I can be a heartless moron at times. My dog has several disabilities… the poor thing can’t talk, has a compulsive obsession with tennis balls, has no opposable thumbs and is really quite short.
My point is that a disability is only defined in public opinion as what appears abnormal, however the abnormal is identified through society telling us what we should believe as normal. In truth everyone has unique characteristics of which they identify, understand and use to the best of their ability.
My attention was turned upon public perception of disability when viewing a TED talk by Stella Young, the link of which can be found at the bottom of this article. I strongly recommend those of you with 15 minutes to spare to go have a watch of this talk after considering my view point. Stella spoke about her experience of being nominated for a community award, despite in her opinion doing nothing exceptional to earn the nomination. She was considered brave and admirable just for living with her unique characteristics. Stella may not want to be called a ‘hero’, but she did give a b****y good TED talk.
In an attempt to rid society of negative discrimination those with so called ‘disabilities’ are almost objectified in order to inspire and motivate, through social media posts, community talks and videos. Unfortunately we live in a world where those seen as different can be discriminated against by certain individuals. Surely by elevating those with disabilities, society as a whole is further segregating these individuals. Why is the person with certain characteristics going about their day more inspiring than another person with unique characteristics? Future generations are brought up in a society where those with certain characteristics are commendable, simply for living their everyday lives. If future generations are brought up considering that those with these characteristics are amazing, then society is actively teaching individuals that those with these characteristics are different, albeit in a positive way.
I think it is an extremely ignorant view of anyone to define what should and shouldn’t be classed as a disability. Who are we to decide which characteristics are undesirable and to then have the arrogance to build up individuals simply for being able to go about their daily lives with these unique characteristics.
I agree with Stella, I’d like to see a society where everyone has seen as having unique characteristics, not disabilities that must be commended, pitied or anything else. We all do the best we can with what we got, in truth that makes everyone commendable.
Jack Barton (Researcher, Rescon Ltd)
Stella Young-> www.bbc.co.uk