New Ways of Thinking and Revolutionary Common Sense

Disability Is Natural Books and Media

Lessons of Segregation

Gina has a Master’s degree, lives in her own home, and has enjoyed moving up the corporate ladder in a variety of positions. When she was a child, her parents followed conventional wisdom and placed Gina in a residential “crippled children’s” school. She saw her family only once a month, and grew up surrounded by children with orthopedic disabilities, along with therapists, special educators, and doctors. She ultimately became accustomed to this “placement”—to the point that this sheltered, artificial setting seemed the norm, and life in the real world seemed strange. This school had high expectations for students, so Gina received an academic education that enabled her to move on to college.

Outwardly successful, 42-year-old Gina struggles daily with the demons of segregation. Spending her formative years (ages 5-18) in a special, segregated environment caused deep wounds that have never healed, and they’re reopened regularly. When faced with any difficulties at work or with family, Gina automatically believes she’s at fault, incompetent, and unworthy; and she feels she doesn’t belong. Being segregated taught her that she didn’t belong—because of her disability, she wasn’t “good enough.” As an adult, this deeply-rooted emotional pain is almost too much to bear, and has created more difficulties for Gina than her disability. She’s currently in counseling, hoping to exorcise the demons that haunt her daily.

Brad has learned other lessons from segregation. He grew up at home with his family, but he never attended the same schools as his brother and sister. At age three, he was put on the special ed bus for the 45-minute ride to the special ed preschool. In later years, he never knew what grade he was in—a common occurrence when children with disabilities of various ages are grouped in the same special ed ungraded classroom. ​Click here to continue.

Where are our values, ethics, and morals? How can we look into the face of a person with a disability and tell him he doesn’t belong, and that a characteristic we call a disability is a valid justification for segregation?

Kathie Snow