Abilities over Disabilities
Many years ago my wife taught me something that was hard for me to learn as I would look at my children’s work and focus on the errors and try to find out why the error was made. What my wife said is you are not encouraging them and it is better to encourage the children first and then you will be granted the opportunity to guide them to overcome the mistakes that they are making. I am so grateful for that advice, it took me a long time to learn it though, that my wife gave me as it has changed my view on so many things.
I have found that in our society we have emphasised the things that people with disabilities cannot do and we do not consider highly the things that they can do. Some loving parents do this well. I remember going to a rehab centre where a mother was demonstrating excitement at a small movement their child could make. The move was so small and yet because it was a new thing since the injury had prevented any movement this was a beginning of a breakthrough. I was beginning to understand a new way of viewing people and their disabilities. As a society we classify people by their disability and yet every person is different and the disability that they display is different in so many ways when we closely examine what is happening.
I remember a young woman who was wheelchair bound, substantially vision impaired and very angry. I decided to get a ball with a rattle in it and by throwing it up in front of her she soon began to throw the ball to me and to catch the ball. Her anger was soon replaced with happiness. She was now treated as a person of worth. We all need to know we are valued and in that we will find pleasure for living. So let us try to find what ability can be discovered within the people we mix with from time to time.
Emphasise abilities please!
Every person can do something and we should empower everyone to become the best person that they can be.
Too often government programs emphasise disabilities and not abilities; we need to do a lot better than this, and we can with some real thought about how to value people for themselves.
Many years ago a presidential candidate hid his disability until after the election and that he had proved he could do the job because nobody would vote for a disabled president. Yet this president lead the USA through the very difficult years of the Second World War; thus proving that President Roosevelt was a very capable person though he had a disability that was caused by polio. When we assume a person with a disability cannot contribute we insult and undersell our people with disabilities.
I was very concerned when a former Prime Minister introduced his “Clever Country” policy as this made many jobs held by some people who had disabilities to be beyond their reach. The need to have completed a training program to continue in their job. Many of these people were sent off to the “sheltered workshops” where they were taken out of the regular workforce where they performed many jobs extremely well. Some of these jobs included cleaning, lift operators, process workers, driveway attendants, and trade assistance. As a result the income of these people working in sheltered workshops is now at $50.00 per week over their pension, while before many received the basic wage. I know of some who have a weekly transport bill greater than the payment that they receive from the sheltered workshop and this is very unfair, in my view. The excluding of people with disabilities from the open workforce, as we have done, is disgraceful and must be find a way out of this situation. The path from here must first to value all people and to value their abilities before we create a bias against them because of any actual or perceived disabilities.