Today, May 2, 2010 is Blogging Against Disablism Day.
Those of us in the Blogosphere are making posts to raise the consciousness of the majority of people who just don’t think before they speak or act around a person with a disability. Whether it be intentional or not, there is a difference in the way the mass population perceives and therefor interacts with a person with a disability. I truly believe if you have a negative perception of a person (regardless if they have a disability or not) that negativity will come through when you are interacting with one another. Visa versa, if you believe that person to be your equal; as just another person waiting in the same long line at the coffee shop that will come through as well.
I have a confession to make, I am guilty of this negative body language as well. Every single one of us who is a parent of a child with a disability has encountered ignorant people. There are the people who’s line of questioning seems like punch after punch in the stomach…and yes, I believe there is such a thing as a dumb question. One of my all time favorites came when my son with Down syndrome was a baby and I was pregnant with my second baby, “will he always look like that?” and pointing to my unborn son “is that one gonna have it too?”
Now, in a situation like this my better self attempts to remain calm on the outside while thinking, hmmm…are YOU always going to look like THAT? while grabbing the nearest liquid and dumping it over her head. That is where the negative body language comes into play, but I try to remind myself this woman just doesn’t know any better. She really DOESN’T GET IT, and by it I mean how to be polite and how to interact with another adult. I then take the “educator approach” as I like to call it and answer all of her insane questions while trying to put it in a perspective that’s more relate-able to herself. Who knows, she very well could have had a disability herself?
Sure there really are people as ignorant as the woman I mentioned above, and there are also people who say or ask things that they think are nice when they really are offensive. I get this one a lot with 3 boys when we are out in public, “wow! you’ve really got your hands full” while staring at my son with Down syndrome, even if he is the only one making a good choice and the other 2 are going bananas. Or here’s an oldie but a goodie, “I had someone like him in my neighborhood when I was growing up.”
My point is stop and think to yourself, would I be offended if I were asked that question, or spoken to in that way (as if my son is hard of hearing so they shout and speak very slowly). I understand people are trying to relate or say something nice when they make comments like I mentioned in the last paragraph, but my question to them is how would they feel if I were to point out one of their weaknesses or something they are self-conscious about in a quizzical way? I’m pretty sure it would feel the same…like a punch in the stomach.
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