Do you practice Ableism?
What the heck is that, you might ask? Ableism is discrimination against people who are disabled, according to the dictionary.
A woman (who I only know "virtually") in one of my writing circles recently wrote an article for the New York Times blog, Motherlode, regarding abortion rights for women. Specifically she wrote about the fact that “North Dakota has become the first state to outlaw abortion for fetal conditions like Down syndrome.” (Citiation and full article HERE)In the close of the article, she talks about how we should “make it a world [that expectant parents] would like to bring a child into — even a child with an intellectual disability.”
She closed with this because people she had interviewed parents didn't abort necessarily because of the child with a disability, but rather how society deals with individuals who are different. They did not want to raise a child like that in this kind of world.
A world that often expects everyone to be able.
I do see the author's point about making it a world in which people want to bring children. I wish that I would never worry about people making fun of or judging Wyatt. I wish I didn't worry about people treating him like he is stupid or infantile well into adulthood.
So, where does the Ableist perspective take us as a society? On a road to nowhere land, IMHO.
First, to be clear: I am not making this an abortion issue. I am making this a human issue.
I believe that the world is full of amazing people. But, some people are not so nice and some have done unexplainablly horrific things - to people with and without disabilities.
But to think that someone is so fearful of how a society will possibly treat a genetically different - disabled - UNBORN child that they end that child's life before it has even begun??
This is a sad, sad thought.
I wish things would change for the better. I wish Ableists were not in existence as much as I wish racism would be extinct.
I know things won't ever be perfect because we are mankind, not God. I know that there will always be people who do bad things (edited on 5/1 from a reader suggestion). But I also know we can do better. Not just for people who are different, but how we simply treat others as humans.
To change this societal norm requires a paradigm shift in societial and cultural expectations. It requires a change in the idealisms of Ableism. To say that people have value simply because they exist...well don't you think that would change the way we view one another?
This is something even the US Government Department of Labor within the Office of Disability Employment Policy is attempting to start doing in employment, as well as Ohio Governor Kasich (love him or hate him) is trying to do through the Ohio Department of Education and the Ohio Employment First Initiative. (Please check out the website and the vision they have HERE!)
But I digress…back to Ableism. The comments section of the article on the NYT blog was horrific at times. People were talking about the human worth of individuals with disabilities not yet born, like it can be quantified through possible unknown outcomes, of which most of us, even "typical" people, have no control over. People were talking about aborting their babies, not because they were fearful of the child, but how they could be cared for by family or society after they - themselves - were gone. Or they discussed the burden it would place on society financially or on remaining siblings. Wow. Some even responded about how it was an atrocity that parents of a child with a disability would take county, state or federal funding to assist with extra costs. (Um, hello...unless you send you kids to your own private homeschool...your kids education has some sort of government funding, even if it is "private.")
Others even insinuated, basically, how we should just magically *POOF* all be perfectly ABLE. And if we are not...well then we shouldn't exist.
YES, SOME PEOPLE REALLY BELIVE THIS AND THEY ARE NOT NAMED HITLER.
The problem is, though, that NONE of us are perfectly able. And statistically, ALL of us will, at one point or another in our lives, will become DIS-Abled. Whether it be illness, age, injury…we will all need the assistance from medical staff, family or friends at some point in our lives.
How many of you have a grandparent or parent who has financially, fully covered all possible medical scenarios from now until death?
I’m guessing I’m hearing crickets.
Or how many of you are going to take in aging parents into your home and care for them until death? Most of us will require some sort of support either through a government program, insurance or Hospice. I don’t think that there are many people ON THIS PLANET that can personally financially cover ever single medical expense from birth until death.
Unless you’re Donald Trump or have a multi-million dollar trust, it is likely that you will need insurance, Medicare or Medicaid, Social Security (if it's still around later), employer-assisted retirement accounts, pensions or some other type of program to help you at some point in your life.
The point here is that Ableism is not a positive perspective. We cannot count the worth of individuals by their chromosomes or any other facet. The point is that no one knows the worth or value of another human being, or can quantify that through a checklist of accomplishments, abilities and societal contributions.
I hope that people do not base Wyatt's life value on societal idealisms. I hope they don't do that to me, or to my daughter, Eden, or my husband, or....the list goes on and on.
There is little progress to be made by engineering the fittest of the fittest. Or the Ableist of the Able.
So how do we change this? Please find value in all humans. Please realize that you have strengths and weaknesses that others do or do not. Please know that we are all ABLE to do something incredibly well, no matter our challenges. And know that life isn't measured by what you are sometimes ABLE to do, but how you are treating others and how you are being the best person you can be to your own individual ABILITY.
Above all...I believe we ALL are valued in the eyes of God, equally. And at the end of the day, that is all that really matters.
Peace, love and joy...