Thursday, 30 August 2012

Some Thoughts On Disability

Disclaimer - This post is NOT a comment on the Paralympics. I want to make this clear at the get go. These thoughts, whilst inspired by events now underway, should be viewed as part of a wider social dialogue.

Long before the Paralympics athletes took up their sport of choice they were winners. They had overcome adversity, and often stigma, and who knows what else. I say this as someone who isn't the slightest bit interested in the Paralympic games, but I confess that it has got me thinking about how I, and perhaps we, think of disability. 
Here's an unfortunate truth. Not all disabled people are nice human beings. Some, like able bodied folk, can be abject examples of humanity. I do not say this to court controversy, but to state simply that people in all positions have the capacity to underwhelm us. Good for them, I say. I'm glad we're on the same  wavelength. Yet what am I getting at here? Well I sometimes wonder if we over state the differences between able bodied and disabled persons, and when we do this we risk falling victim to a tacit kind of segregation mentality.
I'd much rather we all just came in under the same flag; namely human beings with skills and foibles and quirks and all the rest. I wonder whether in our effort to acknowledge the difference we do disabled people a great disservice? There is us, and there is them. There is, if you like, a very clear difference. Well yes, but also no. It is clearly a brute fact that disabled persons do have additional obstacles to overcome, and the majority do so quite spectacularly. But, and this is what I'm driving at here, they are still just another aspect of humanity, part of the greater milieu of the great human condition. As such, I think we need to take care not to adopt attitudes, however well meaning, that somehow overplay the differences. Inside some broken bodies are great minds, and powering some broken minds are some great bodies.
What I'm trying to say is that the differences, however visually obvious, aren't quite as distinct as we may think.

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