Today, is Blogging Against Disablism Day, hosted by Diary of Goldfish, in which lots of people;
write about disability and rail against the discrimination that disabled people continue to face...from discrimination in education and employment, through health care, parenting, family life and relationships, as well as the interaction of disablism with other forms of prejudice.
Like most people, disability issues didn't concern me much before my own disabled son was born. I was aware of the social model versus medical model issue and of the ways language can be used, ie 'wheelchair user' versus 'wheelchair bound' (NO!) but I did still consider people with disabilities to be somehow 'other' to me. And now, I'm not disabled, my child is. But I realise more than ever, that my own situation could change at any time, if I was to become sick or have an accident, or as I age. Disability issues do or will affect most of us.
My son is autistic. It's an integral part of him, like his gender, eye colour, racial background, etc. It affects how he learns, how he experiences the world and how he interacts with others. It is no less valid a way of being than a non-autistic life. He is a wonderful boy, just as he is. I want him and his siblings, to develop and grow to adults with the desire to learn and the ambition to realise their potential. I want them to have empathy and respect for others, to have confidence and self-esteem. I want them to develop a health conscious life style, the skills to solve problems and the flexibility to deal with modern life as well as they are capable. These goals are in the educational philosophy I have written for each of my children. And although I have the same wishes for all, they will not end up doing or achieving the same things and they will have different levels of independence. That's fine too. All we, their parents can do, is raise them the best we can, in an atmosphere of love and acceptance of their differences, difficulties and strengths.
Discrimination on the grounds on disability is no more acceptable than discrimination due to race or gender. It's endemic in our society, and there are many great voices out there challenging this, working to reduce disablism. I see disablism in the language used about autism in the media, the 'devastation rhetoric', the desire you hear expressed to rid the world of autism. Autistic people have a right to exist and have a right to be treated well by society, as do all disabled people.