Today, Domenic, a fellow Vita staff, and I did a presentation on Disability Pride at a conference attended by people who work with those who have intellectual disabilities. A question regarding people with disabilities who will not hang around with or ever date other with disabilities due to both self hatred and prejudice against others with a disability led to another question and statement.
I'm not going to get this exactly right. It's hard to memorize something when in shock. One person began a comment by saying, 'I don't want to seem reactionary, but do we really want to have more people with disabilities? If we encourage people with disabilities to have pride and to value others with disabilities we are going to perpetuate disability and do further damage to the gene pool.' This was followed by a long explanation that people choose partners so that they can have good strong healthy babies with them. I was in shock.
For the first time in my history of taking questions, and I've taken a lot of questions, I said, 'I am really offended by what you just said.' I've been offended before, but not like this, never like this. I continued 'Here I sit, a man with a disability in a wheelchair and listen to you say that the world would be better without people like me in it.' I referred to his comments as coming out of Nazi science and myths about sexuality and disability. The room was tense and explosive. I said to the audience that we'd get sidetracked talking about genetics and eugenics so we needed to get back to pride.
I was so pleased to have a co-presenter who could take over and give me time to settle myself down. All sorts of feelings flew around inside of me. I'm not going to name any of them here, but I'm guessing you can guess. I never expected to have a question about the validity of people with disabilities as human beings and as having a right to exist come from someone attending a conference on disabilities - as a professional.
This deeply, deeply frightens me.
I'm still a little shaken.