Monday, April 1, 2013


So I was reading this. And I can see where she's coming from, but I have to disagree. In particular, I have to disagree with the position that "a statement that you [as a physically disabled person] are different in a way that needs to be fixed" is hurtful.

I think it's great to be positive about our various different abilities. I think that the indomitable human spirit is the one thing that stands between any seriously disabled person and despair. More than that, I feel that this spirit allows people who've been dealt a really unfair hand to not only play, but win, every day. All of us have this human spirit; all of us are capable of amazing feats of perseverance when we have no other option. What truly sets disabled people apart is that they are pushed to it. They're forced to carry on in the face of their disability.

The usual stance these days is that if you can't do something that a healthy, fully functional human can do, then that's A-OK and it's awful to even suggest that you suffer or feel any kind of inconvenience because of this. This shits me deeply, on a basic, fundamental level, because it is trivialising the struggle that every single disabled person faces on a daily basis. It is telling them that there's nothing wrong with them, that they should be happy with what they have instead of wanting a fully functional body.

Like many others, I have myopia. I am unable to focus my eyes beyond about 25cm from my face without artificial assistance. My eyes are built wrong, whether due to genetics or me reading too much during my early teens, I don't know, but my lenses and/or corneas do not focus light properly. I don't get all outraged if someone acknowledges the fact that I can't see for shit without my glasses. It's a fact. I couldn't read inch-high text from more than a meter away to save my life. I couldn't drive a motor vehicle without optical correction. I'm very lucky that, thanks to science, I can buy glasses and while I'm wearing them this problem is completely fixed.

I am this lucky because, over the course of human history, smart and hardworking people have decided that being myopic is a difference that needs to be fixed. And now, thanks to their hard work, I have several options to repair or work around my disability.

Back to the article I linked at the start. The author wants others to see disabled people as people who "don’t see their physical or mental limitations as things to be fixed by outsiders, but rather something that is part and parcel of who they are." This is just cognitive dissonance at play. She has accepted that she's unable to fix her disability, and so she's convinced herself that it is a good and proper part of who she is and who she should be. She states that "because of a brilliant surgeon and supportive hospital, I have a body that works." At one stage surgery improved her condition, but at some point between then and now (and despite the fact that she still describes her condition as a 'hindrance'), any suggestion of further improvement became hurtful.

I guess my message here is that we need to see the person, not the disability, even when that person is us. We need to be strong enough to accept that there is a beautiful, vibrant, caring, loving person who, unfairly, through no fault of that person, is trapped in a faulty vehicle. We need to see the difference between the person, and the vessel in which they currently reside. And we need to agree that if that vessel is faulty, it is up to us to repair it, not as some indictment of the person residing in it, but as a service to enable that person to live their life as they should always have been able. If fixing it is impossible with current science, then it is up to us to advance science to a point where a fix is possible, so that eventually no person will have to live with that disability. If something is hurting you, something is impairing you and stopping you from reaching your full potential, then this is not OK. You deserve to be able to have this problem fixed (if you so choose), to allow you to continue unhindered on your journey through life.

Any less is not enough.