If you were to build a perfect society, how would you build it? What you include in it would be telling. But perhaps more revealing would be what you might exclude from that perfect world.
What kind of society might result from endorsing a belief that a society without disabled people is “perfect?” Voices like mine will, no doubt, be dismissed as the whining of a ‘special interest’ group. I have never been able to understand why. I am frightened of the times that seem to be coming. Societies with goals of eliminating the birth of children with Down Syndrome—not the cause, mind you, the births. Perceptions of beauty as shallow as Hollywood noses and dental veneers.
Dr. Temple Grandin didn’t talk until she was three and a half years old, communicating frustration instead by screaming, peeping, and humming. In 1950, she was diagnosed with autism, and her parents were told that she should be institutionalized. Yet she went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in psychology and both masters and doctoral degrees in animal science.
For the past decades, Dr. Grandin has been a professor at Colorado State University. She tells her story in her book Emergence: Labeled Autistic, a book which stunned the world because, until its publication, most professionals and parents assumed that an autism diagnosis was virtually a death sentence to achievement or productivity in life.
Don’t judge a book by its cover. From Stephen Hawking, a man in a wheelchair who can’t speak and is one of the smartest people in the world to Francesco Clark, a quadriplegic and CEO of a beauty product company, don’t ever think a disability means someone who is not impressive or successful.
What a tragedy when those who think themselves “normal” (read “superior”) fail to see the rich lives of the disabled. What darkness lurks in hearts who are uncomfortable or even fear those who are different in some way…what ignorance to live that way for a lifetime. We are all imperfect human beings. Disability can happen to anyone.
Tell your children that they don’t need to fit in to feel good about themselves, and use the lives of the disabled as examples.
Henri Nouwen wrote of how God reveals himself through the reality of disability. Without trying to romanticize the complexity and hardship of any disability…
I suddenly realized that Adam was not just a disabled person, less human than me or other people. He was a fully human being, so fully human that God even chose him to become the instrument of His love. He was so vulnerable, so weak, so empty, that he became just heart, the heart where God wanted to dwell, where He wanted to stay and where He wanted to speak to those who came close to His vulnerable heart. Adam was a full human being, not half human or less human.
The title of this post comes a book by Temple Grandin.