The Disability Hierarchy
New Ways of Thinking and Revolutionary Common Sense
We also promote the Hierarchy when we make a diagnosis the defining characteristic of ourselves and/or a family member . . . In her Email to me, Mary Lou complained that no one could see past Stephen’s disabilities. Duh—how can they when her Email signature ("Mary Lou, mother of Stephen, severe MR and uncontrolled seizures") makes his diagnoses the most important things about him? And how does Stephen feel about this?
Like many who care about disability issues, I’m always concerned about the public perception of individuals who happen to have disabilities. Inaccurate fictional depictions in the movies and on TV; pitiful or heroic portrayals in news stories; and stereotypical perceptions held by many in the general public leave much to be desired. Through the work of some activists, glimmers of change are emerging.
Perhaps, however, we should be even more concerned about the attitudes and actions of ourselves—those within the disability arena: individuals with disabilities, family members, activists, and those employed in the field. During many years as a public speaker and host of a website, I’ve met and communicated with thousands who care about disability issues, and I’ve seen negative attitudes that equal, and sometimes surpass, the harmful perceptions of the general public. How can change occur if our words and actions perpetuate the negative attitudes we say we’re trying to eliminate?It’s time to examine this “enemy within,” and I’ll start with myself. Click here to continue.