Thursday, June 26, 2008

I object!

. . . to journalists persistently referring to persons with physical or mental challenges as disabled. This label implies that the person so described is unfit, unable or disqualified. There are so many levels and types of challenges that being labeled disabled is not only patently unfair, but inaccurate. Specifically: -- a wheelchair bound individual may not be able to lift big boxes, or operate heavy machinery, but s/he may have extraordinary mental or artistic skills; -- someone who is hearing impaired may have marvelous hand/eye coordination; -- a sight-impaired person might be an excellent psychologist, helping patients based on their words and tone of voice rather than their appearance; -- persons with cerebral palsy are no less intelligent than those who are able to control physical movement; -- "little people" are challenged because of small stature and some have genetic anomylies that further challenge physical activity. Lack of intelligence is not a factor in this physical challenge. Mentally challenged individuals come in all shapes and sizes. For example, persons with Down Syndrome are often loving and caring people. Their cheerfulness and honesty are valuable in so many situations. Some are perfectly happy doing repetitive work that might be considered boring by others. Job satisfaction is subjective. I played a very small role in the development of the Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990. Having a disability is not the same as being disabled. It means that one is not as capable of or skilled in particular activities. How else can one explain someone like Professor Stephen W. Hawking? His body barely supports his life yet his mind is beyond phenomenal!

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