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Are They Blind To The Meaning Of Parenthood?

May 15, 2009

In last week’s Pick Me Up magazine, I read the story of Cindy Gell, 34. Cindy lost her eyesight 15 years ago to a form of glaucoma, and her husband, Adrian, was born blind. So far, so picture perfect to a DisAbled person who can completely understand the unbreakable connection that develops between two people who share a DisAbility. So what’s the problem?

Well, Cindy and Adrian Gell have five children. Nothing wrong with that, either. I don’t doubt for a second that they both have just as much love to give their children as any sighted parents would. However, four of their five children were born blind.

So, I thought, surely doctors would have told the Gells that there was a good chance of this happening? If they knew that, then, I wondered, why did they choose to have so many children, and knowingly give them a DisAbility as serious as blindness?

Last year, I covered the case of Tomato Lichy and Paula Garfield, a couple who can’t hear, whose first child can’t hear, and who wanted to make sure that their second child wouldn’t be able to hear either. They have a point of view on this topic that I can understand, since they are part of a group of Deaf people who don’t see themselves as disabled. Instead, they choose to see themselves as part of a linguistic minority that speaks Sign Language.

However, as far as I know, all blind people think of themselves as disabled, and know the seriousness of their disability. So one of the points I made last year definitely applies to my reaction to this case. I would never in a million years want to knowingly give my child my disability. My disability isn’t genetic, but if it was, I would have to think very seriously before having any children. If one of my children was born, by chance and bad luck, with any disability that I had genetically given to them, I certainly wouldn’t have any more children if there was even the smallest chance that they, too, could be born with the disability.

Some say that a genetic disability would not stop them having more than one child, as they would love two disabled children equally. This is one perfectly good and right point of view. But this is not the point I am trying to make in this post. Unless the Gells, like Lichy and Garfield, don’t think of their blindness as a disability, but as something that places them in a minority group, I find it impossible to understand why they have had so many children, while knowing that their blindness was genetic. The idea that they can understand blindness because they experience it themselves has crossed my mind. However, surely no real parent would knowingly give their child a life that included anything that they considered a disability?

As always, your comments are very welcome.

This post is part of a new debate at Same Difference about DisAbled parents.

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