Stop Praising Able-bodies for Treating Disabled People Like Human Beings

Periodically, memes and news stories about able-bodied people befriending, helping, and even inviting people with disabilities to prom swirl on social media. To many, these stories are heartwarming and may even “replenish one’s faith in mankind.”. Undoubtedly, hearing about these events is more pleasant than hearing about bombings, robberies, or murders, however, these stories also belittle disabled people. The world needs to wake up and understand that disabled people are human beings, and therefore, have no less value than their able-bodied peers.

Many articles write “Girl takes friend in wheelchair to prom,” and the comments section is spilling over with positive responses like “What a sweet girl,” or “What a lucky boy,” and what these commenters fail to notice is that they are promoting the stigma against disabilities in society. If an able-bodied girl asked her able-bodied friend to prom, people would not praise her for making her friend feel special; instead, they would just think that two friends are attending prom together. Noone would think the girl was missing the chance of having a “real” date to go with a friend. Disabled people deserve the same courtesy. Yes, like able-bodies, most people with disabilities want to attend prom, but that does not mean their date is sacrificing to go to prom with them. Befriending or dating a disabled person does not mean lowering one’s standards. People with disabilities are just people; they can be kind, cruel, sarcastic, intelligent, unworldly, wise, or uplifting. A wheelchair, crutch, walker, or communication device does not lessen a person’s worth; the individual has worth based upon character traits.

A meme is also floating around the internet reading “If [your] spouse became disabled…would you still be with them?”. This implies that most people would not want to be married to a disabled person. The old cliché “love is blind” has retired because apparently physical ability is a defining trait of a person. Staying with a person who is paralyzed is considered “noble” in this society.

It is time that people saw discrimination against disabled people the same way they view discrimination against women, black people, hispanic people, and people from the LGBT community–awful. Noone deserves to be dehumanized based upon a trait that is out of his control. The quality of a person is not confined to his body, but to his character, strength, wisdom, and passion.

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20 Comments

  1. My son who has CP was just voted in by hid peers as the Master Counselor of The Joplin Chapter Order Of DeMolay. To say that this should is not anything but a pity gesture is not only gut wrenching but also everything wrong with the world. He received this honor because he is the most qualified and respected person umong his group. I get where you are coming from but stop villamizing every thing you come across. You will start looking like a hater and no one will listen to you when you have something w I rth saying.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Great that your son earned it. That’s fantastic! However, just as the author suggests, if a meme was made of your son’s accomplishments, the vast majority of readers would assume it was due to his CP. Because THAT is the message that is being sent out and perpetuated daily.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. It’s important to read. Social media are the biggest perpetrators in what this blog is speaking on. Their are many who need to be educated. Bringing up a counterpoint because the situation doesn’t apply to you or a loved one doesn’t make it any less valid and is counterproductive.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi,

    I publish an Australian website on disability news and opinion at:
    https://mydisabilitymatters.com.au

    and was wondering if it might be okay to republish this article and any other relevant ones on our website, with appropriate credit and a link back of course.

    It would help spread your work and gain a wider audience for you.

    Hope we can work together and I am quite happy to publish other articles you may have written that aren’t on your blog also.

    Thanks,
    Dale.

    Like

  3. Exactly my feelings – except I would extend it to all disabled – both physically and developmentally. Your words echo what I’ve been sensing for quite a while now – like every time I read one of those stories. Thanks!!

    Like

  4. Thank you so much for this. A person close to me just posted on facebook one of the prom stories and I’m really upset because I thought she’d know better.

    Like

  5. As the parent of a child with disabilities, I often get asked if my child participates in Special Olympics. First, it annoys me because maybe she participates in Typical Olympics. Second it annoys me because the idea that all people with special needs participate in Special Olympics.
    But mostly it annoys me because I went to a SO event. The opening ceremonies were all about the FANTASTIC volunteers and the INCREDIBLE volunteers and how AMAZING the volunteers were. Then the “athletes” walked through.
    The closing ceremonies thanked the volunteers for all their efforts, for giving of their time, for their willingness to…what exactly?…spend time with…..
    It made me very angry. My kid is not a cause.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. I love this article, with the exception of one blaring failure. It assumes all disability is physical disability in nature. By using “able-bodied” as the opposite of disability and when talking of disability it assumes only physical disability qualifies. The message is brilliant. Though it applies to everyone with disability. Not just those with visible disability.

    Like

    1. In this article the author speaks about her particular disability which is physical. I have read numerous articles with the perspective of a person with developmental disabilities, never mentioning physical disabilities. Great article, wonderful perspective. Thank you Erica!

      Like

  7. We have been saying that for years! It is not that far removed from pity to make a big deal out of a kid just because he or she has a disability. It still segregates him into us and them. If other kids really want to include individuals with disabilities in their games and social events, don’t make it a photo op.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. As someone with CP who has also led a very “typical” life in the eyes of others, I really appreciate this post. It’s taken me a long time to figure out who in my life recognizes my accomplishments because I have done them as an individual and who is only offering praise because I have done them as someone with CP. I’m glad someone is calling attention to the problematic nature of these viral stories, not necessarily because they exist, but because of the intentions of those who share them. Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. As the parent of an autistic person I understand the concern expressed, but have a different take on it, based on our son’s reaction to being treated “like a normal kid,” and the psychology of behavior. If you want behavior to change–if you want more people to treat people with physical or mental challenges better, to include them more, to consider them as people first and their challenges second–then yes, praise those who are ahead of the crowd in inclusion. It makes clear that inclusion is both possible and socially approved: the examples are needed to persuade those who just won’t get it otherwise. It reinforces the behavior in the one who did whatever-it-was. Those feel-good articles may be too smarmy, but they help motivate other people to take what they see as a risk. Positive reinforcement is a powerful tool for behavior and social change.

    In addition, there’s the effect on the person who is included (whether in a prom, a basketball game) and those immediately around her/him. When our son was invited to a post-graduation party he was thrilled and he had a great time. He’d been in special ed and resource classes through high school, but was included in the party because he was graduating–not just because he was autistic. As it happened, no reporter happened on the story, so it was schmaltzed up for a newspaper or TV…but even if it had been, his enjoyment was worth whatever risk of “exploitation” he wouldn’t have figured out anyway. And chances are good that at least some of the other kids–and parents of those kids–who experienced him in a social situation, away from school, changed some preconceived ideas about autism. The same certainly happened in our church, where he was active in the youth group and went to the youth group parties. As a parent, I can (and did) swallow a truckload of pride and attitude if my kid is getting a benefit from something.

    I want to see a society in which all people are treated with respect and dignity, included as whole people not “that wheelie” or “that Down kid.” I want it to be no big deal when someone with challenges gets to go to a prom, or a party, or play on the team. But we aren’t there yet. And as long as we’re not there yet, praise–including public praise–of those who are working toward that goal, whether it’s a friend in school or a teacher, coach, volunteer, or a random individual (the clerk in one shoe store, the doorman at one hotel) is a very useful tool for changing behavior, beyond the person praised.

    Liked by 1 person

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