This is my contribution to Blogging Against Disablism Day 2008. It’s a little early, and very long. Thanks for reading. Enjoy!
We have a message for you about the rights of those you call ‘different.’ That’s right. People with disabilities. Your files. Your paperwork. Your percentages. Your statistics. Your numbers. We have a message for you about our rights. Yes, we do have rights. At least, we send you this message in the hope that you will allow us to have rights, because all human beings are equal. Whoever you believe God is, God created us all. Yes, even those of us who you call ‘disabled.’ Most of you think that we were only created so that you would have a job. I have no doubt that you are right. But guess what? We were still created by God.
I am a Creative Writing student. I am 22. I love soap operas. Do you want to find out more about me? I hope so. I also have Cerebral Palsy. Do you still want to find out more about me? I hope so. Do you agree that I am just like you? I hope so, but the bad news is, because you’re mainstream professionals, I have my doubts. Here’s the good news: a few have proved my doubts wrong. I hope you’ll be some of them, but it’s going to take a lot for you to earn my trust. And in this letter, I’ll tell you exactly why. I hope that no one ever needs to write you a letter like this again. You can control that, and it’s easier than you think.
I have a fairly ‘normal’ life. However, maybe I don’t. After all… what is normal? It doesn’t exist. At least, I don’t think so, because I have never seen it!
The support of teachers and examiners throughout my mostly mainstream education took me through GCSEs, A levels, and university. I am grateful to them all for giving me the chances that they gave me, but I was always caught somewhere in the middle. Somewhere between the ‘mainstream’ world of shopping, television and homework, and the ‘special’ world of Learning Support, extra time and physiotherapy. There were times when I felt as though I was living a double life! Let me tell you a secret, though. The ‘special’ world is not all that special. In fact, sometimes, it can be heartbreaking. It is a world of pain and loss and death. How special is that? Is it any different to ‘your’ world? I didn’t think so.
I suppose you could say that these feelings are natural in a situation like mine, a situation in which, throughout my life, these two worlds have been forced to collide countless times. I feel lucky to have had enough support to understand and accept these collisions without too much disruption being caused to the formal commitments of either world.
However, my friends have not been as lucky. They have even better brains than mine, but just because they are in wheelchairs, they are not able to show those brilliant brains to the world. Just because they can not speak, no one knows that they have all the information they need to know stored in their minds. Just because they can not write, no one believes that they know anything.
I ask you all, as ‘mainstream’ professionals, should this make a difference? Should a person who has an almost perfect mind be sent to a school for children with learning difficulties just because they can’t speak to their teachers ‘normally?’ I don’t think so, but it was people like you who put one of my closest friends through this situation.
Should a child who has the mental ability to achieve a result which is three levels higher than her best friend’s result be forbidden to attempt an exam, simply because it would take her too much time to provide a teacher with answers? I don’t think so, but I’ve seen it happen. Unfortunately, I’m the friend whose result was lower!