There are so many programs dedicated to integrating the disabled, the differently-abled, the uniquely-abled, that I wanted to respond to a recent article I read that seemed to be promoting isolating the disabled.
First, to be fair, the author of the article in question has far more personal experience with disabilities than I do. The author also has much to say about her own experiences with disabilities and actually, talks about isolating the disabled as a somewhat utopian concept.
This concept is where she and I differ greatly. In this short, you will learn why I believe isolating the disabled to be a great disservice, not only to ‘them’, but to ‘us’ – the rest of the world’s population.
Although I have worked with developmentally challenged adults in a range of capacities, from home care aide to activity director, and married into a family with many physical challenges, I personally, have no visible or functional disabilities. With that said, please note that I said no VISIBLE or functional disabilities. It is my personal belief that no living human being is completely free of some type of disability.
Isolating the disabled does nothing for the disabled, and does nothing positive for society. To me, the concept seems very much like racial segregation. Our collective diversity would definitely suffer. Isolating the disabled isn’t all that different from leper colonies that existed to ‘protect’ society. So, what is it that we are trying to protect society from in the case of the disabled?
I am not a proponent of integrating dangerous persons into society. A young adult with aggressive, physically abusive behaviors needs to be somewhere that both they and society is safe from harm. Likewise, integrating a deaf and blind child into a mainstream kindergarten class would not be beneficial to the child or the other children in class. What I AM advocating, is a general societal acceptance of our differences.
One way to accomplish this goal, is to stop isolating people who are different, unique, and yes, differently-abled. Teach your children that all people have their own unique and valuable part in our world. Learn to accept differences, your own and other’s.
One way I found to understand at least a little bit of what the differently-abled go through, is to become differently-abled. Live in a wheelchair for a week or a month. Wear eye patches or wear silencer headphones from the local gun shop. Pay attention to how people on the street treat you, look at you, or so obviously ignore you.
What’s the purpose of this exercise? Compassion. And, just maybe, a bit more understanding about what the disabled go through on a daily basis. Take your new understanding, and spread the word. Isolating the disabled does nothing for anyone. Promoting each human being’s unique highest potential does everything!