Buki tiene un nuevo amigo

domingo, 18 de julio de 2010

Disability and the Image of Equality

I wait sitting, upset, and tired from going through such an absurd and ridiculous situation, which nevertheless is repeated over and over and exhausts me. Finally! It looks like they have an understanding, they open the door for me, help me down, and we go into the shopping center. I don’t ask any questions because I know what the argument was about: using disability parking spaces when your disability varies in its severity can become a problem. This is the case with Parkinson’s, which at my 39 years of age already causes me rigidity on one side of my body, but only sometimes; when my medications are working, I can move with no problems, but long distances wear me out, and over a few hours I can love my mobility and it can become impossible for me to walk. A cane helps support me, but it isn’t enough; I need somebody who can help me move and that’s when my disability becomes recognizable.

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Unfortunately, the media has created a tragic and pitiful image of people with disabilities. They show us in the role of helpless, vulnerable victims. Society limits us with this viewpoint, and socially excludes us. Of course we belong to a sector of society that is not appropriately protected, where the lack of laws and norms that fulfill our needs has meant that we are limited and eliminated from certain fields, including work and education, among others. But this situation has been created by the inability of the system, when it doesn’t think about human diversity and instead tries to standardize and avoid plurality.

Enough is enough! They can’t keep using the image of compassion as the symbol of disability. The media presents you with a panorama of suffering, pain, and hopelessness. Who wants to live with a person with a disability if that person is portrayed as a burden, as a person who constantly needs to be helped? It is depressing to watch programs that are supporting people with different abilities; the objective is noble – collecting funds for clinics, support for equipment, the creation of rehabilitation centers – the depressing part is how they do it. One of many examples: a telethon in which to encourage people to make donations, they use the image of people down on their luck or hopeless; they present tragic cases that make us feel pity, or moving cases to make us feel compassion and motivate us to donate money to help such pitiful beings.

And our integrity? When you hear the word “disability” you think of somebody who suffers, is limited, is unable to be worth anything for who they are. This is the stereotype created by the media, that’s how they see us, and it is a concept that is completely out of place. That image is what limits us. Who would want to hire a person with a disability, if they feel pity for that person and think they won’t be able to place the same demands on him or her that they place on other employees? The perception of disability must change, as the value of each human being lays not in physical ability, but rather in the essence of his or her spirit.

Those of us who live with disabilities aren’t looking for compassion about our life situations, and we don’t want to just be recognized for our successes. Our needs are based in being treated as equals, in having the same opportunities that others have. What limits us? The lack of architectural and transportation infrastructure that would allow us access and entry into productive activities and businesses or institutions; the lack of public transportation with the necessary adaptations so that people with disabilities can securely and accessibly use it; the limited opportunities for participating in educational institutions, which prevents academic advancement, and as a result prevents greater economic independence. In this context, what is needed is just accomodation, adjustment, and implementation of an environment in which people with disabilities can participate and have access to the diverse services they need in their daily activities. However, as a minority, diverse sectors of society are uninterested in offered people with disabilities the services with the conditions that they need, and thus their rights become limited.

The influence the media exerts on some groups could cause a change in society’s attitudes and values, and that is why it’s important to evaluate the type of message they transmit about people with disabilities. The creation of stereotypes is the creation of another barrier to social inclusion. Our greatest desire is to feel that we are not discriminated against. We have the same goals and dreams as anyone. Our goal is our active integration into all areas, eliminating barriers, and not feeling that we are excluded. However, to achieve this change, we have to eliminate the most important barrier, the social barrier, the barrier of those who perceive us to be limited. The only difference that really exists is that we do things in a different way.
by: Janet López Barrios
Fuente: Proyecto Visión

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