This is my new post and my new jumping off point! I am going to post every day, and I invite others to join the conversation. Even if I tell you about an event in my life, or a family member’s, or a friend’s- maybe I convey an event of a stranger I happen to observe. The point is disability, and people with disabilities, are everywhere. The very idea that we are treated like a minority group is somewhat misleading, given the number of conditions that are disabling, and yet people continue to live and thrive with them.
Of course, that was a bit misleading as well, wasn’t it? A large number of those who are disabled do not identify themselves as a person with a disability.
My mother was a perfect example. She was a brilliant doctor, years ahead of her time. She became an oncologist in the late 50s, one of the first female oncologists in the Philadelphia area. She volunteered in the Algerian War for the predecessor to Doctors without Borders. She was Head of Nuclear Medicine (later Radiation Oncology). It was a teaching hospital, so she taught residents, interns, and medical students. And then she would come home at night and cook dinner for her three children. (My father, a physician as well, was in the kitchen too.) Oh- and she had Type I diabetes. In fact, she was diagnosed in college, and told to go home. But she didn’t. She and her mother decided medical school close to home would suffice.
Why did I tell this story? First, because my mother was an incredible woman, and incredible people deserve to have their stories told. Second, although she had juvenile diabetes most of her life, she did not define herself as handicapped (the term of the time). Is that because disability is only defined by what we can see or level of incapacity? If so, I reject that definition.
Merriam-Webster is not helping me out here. Their first definition of disability is “the condition of being disabled” Their second being “limitation in the ability to pursue an occupation because of a physical or mental impairment; also: a program providing financial support to one affected by disability.”
This is confusing. Persons with disabilities are disabled. That is called a tautology, “the saying of the same thing twice in different words, generally considered to be a fault of style”. I looked that up in their dictionary, too.
So people gravitate towards the second definition, the definition that people cannot do something because of their medical problems- not because society is not accepting of people with certain medical and mental impairments.
If everyone with disabilities ‘fessed up, came out of the closet, let other people know that they “had (fill in the blank)” I think the attitudes of “they can’t do that”, “SuperCrip”, “I have to pay for all these freeloaders” might dissipate. A little. Because let’s face it. We’re everywhere.