Imagine the birth of your baby. You anticipated the baby’s arrival and dreamt about how life will be when he or she is born. You love your baby with all your heart, even before birth. Now, imagine your baby is born with a disability. Imagine further the doctor or nurse wanting to take your baby from you and send him away before you even hold him. Sound unbelievable? Not so long ago, if someone was born with a disability, the family was encouraged to send them away. It was viewed that disabilities were something to be ashamed of and families couldn’t possibly be equipped to care for someone with a physical or cognitive disability. So, our society built special homes and schools and locked people away in institutions.
Saying No to INSTITUTIONS
A few brave souls determinedly said “no, I will not send my child away”, but they were the minority. There was often no help, support, or understanding for them from the community.
I do not for one minute want anyone to think I blame the parents who did send their children away. For the most part, they were told, and believed, that what they were doing was for the best for their child. I have spoken with some of these parents and know the heartbreak they went through. I have also talked with some of the grown children who were raised in institutions, and know their story too. I have not heard a story yet of a happy childhood in an institution. The stories are ones of neglect, abuse, loneliness, and hopelessness.
Changes Still Coming
Thankfully, our society has changed, and these institutions are no more. We have come a long way, but we still have a long way to go. Talk to 10 people about what a disability is and I bet you will get 10 different answers! Ask them about the place of people with disabilities in our society, and that’s when things get even trickier.
There is still a lot of fear and misconceptions surrounding many types of disabilities that people face. There are still children at school who will call a child with a learning disability “a retard”. There are still adults who call someone in a wheelchair “a cripple”. There are those who feel that the disabled have no place in our schools or workplaces. People with disabilities are often the victims of bullying and feel lonely and isolated. Many pity those with a disability.
Look at Abilities
We need to take the dis out of disability and look to what abilities people have! Just because someone thinks or processes information differently, or because they move through the word differently does not mean it is a bad thing. It is just different and we need to embrace the differences in all of us. Look at the person first, not the disability.
When it comes down to it, people with a disability just want to be loved and accepted for who they are – is this any different than what you want for yourself or your children? With compassion and understanding, we can make it a better world for all of us.