Disability: The All Encompassing Term
In society today the term “disability” has a direct connection with confinement which infringes on freedom. The inability to do something does not imply the lack of ability to do anything, nor does it imply one should be destined to a lesser quality of life. The misuse of this word restricts freedom and has imposed confinement on groups, cultures, individuals, as well as triggering individuals to inflict forms of confinement upon themselves. This term has developed into a broad umbrella with a negative stigma propagated by society. Emphasis should be placed on what individuals can do as opposed to ostracizing them for what they cannot do. Through ability awareness we can eradicate some forms of confinement, freeing individuals from restraints placed upon them by society, as well as placed by oneself. Disability should not be an all-encompassing term which places negative restraints on someone. It would be fair to say a heart surgeon would lack the ability to perform Lasik Eye Surgery. Obviously this inability would be due to a lack of qualifications; however, society would not begin to think of the heart surgeon as an incapable individual, nor would a lesser life be imposed upon the surgeon. Nevertheless society does not view or treat incapacities of individuals the same. The opposite holds true for the deaf community which illustrates this inequality. An experience my daughter Madison shared with me came to mind (personal communication, November 21, 2010). Madison has always been fascinated with sign language. Her fascination prompted her to complete two courses in American Sign Language class (ASL), ASL101and ASL102, as well as participating in many activities as possible within the deaf community. This enabled her opportunity to learn about deaf culture from their perspective. Madison said there were approximately 30-35 deaf people at each event she attended. She learned deaf people did not see deafness as a disability, nor did they like the fact it is considered as such. This sparked Madison to ask their opinion on cochlear implants. She learned the deaf community view deafness as a culture and felt the implants are a means to destroy this culture. As an example Madison was told, when two deaf people have a child that is deaf it is viewed as a blessing, not a tragedy. As deaf parents, raising a child that can hear comes with many challenges which were described to her as barriers. They refer to these children as CODA (children of deaf adults) kids, for deaf children this barrier does not exist. In fact, deaf parents feel a more cohesive relationship with the deaf child. When deaf parents give birth to a child who can hear, they compare it to someone adopting a child from a foreign country that did not speak their language. For a class assignment Madison posed as a deaf person in public. Completing this assignment allowed Madison to briefly experience what is was like for deaf people in the community as well as confirming stories of how deaf people were treated in society. Though Madison’s experience is greatly condensed, I do believe it supports this theory. First, the deaf community may lack the ability to hear but certainly not the ability to function. Secondly, they do not see deafness as disability; deafness is referred to as a culture. Just as the two surgeons specialized in two different areas, neither capable of performing the other surgeons job, both deaf individuals and those that can hear are equally capable, even though they function differently. The assumption that a deaf person is disabled places that all-encompassing umbrella over their culture with the negative stigma emphasizing what a deaf person cannot do. This behavior in society places restraints on quality of life. Some do not have the perseverance and are easily pigeon-holed into self-doubt, creating their own confinement. Much can be learned from children. Through Madison’s peaked curiosity, she viewed a...
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