While the notion of patronizing those with cerebral palsy for 24 hours makes me cringe, I acknowledge the importance of World CP Day. Unfortunately, many people with cerebral palsy around the world do not have access to assistive devices such as walkers, crutches, wheelchairs, and communication devices, and they do not have a solid support system to allow them to lead a full life. People with disabilities are also the victims of violence and abuse. Less than three months ago, 19 disabled people were killed in Japan. This news sickened me, but it also reminded me how fortunate I am to go to college and be able to express my ideas and how imperative it is to use my voice to educate others.
Cerebral palsy is a neuromuscular disorder caused by damage to the parts of the brain that control motor function. This means they may have trouble speaking, eating, walking, or performing daily activities like dressing. This does not mean, however, that people with cerebral palsy are inferior to their able-bodied peers. Many people with cerebral palsy go to college or trade schools, pursue careers, and have families. In other cases, a person may have an intellectual disability (in addition to CP) and may not have these options. Whether the person is or is not successful by society’s standards does not define the worth of his life. He still deserves to be able to eat, be clothed, enjoy leisure activities, have access to transportation, and be treated like a human being. It is tragic that in the 21st century people still fail to see the value in a disabled person’s life.
Today, I urge everyone to advocate for those who cannot advocate for themselves. This includes promoting accessibility (and alerting government officials when a place is inaccessible), donating to causes such as Easter Seals that help families find and get resources, and reporting discrimination.
Equality is not guaranteed; disabled people are seen as less because they speak, walk, and do things differently, and sometimes even look different. Hopefully with awareness, people will be able to acknowledge that every life is valuable and that everyone has something to contribute to the world.