I have spent the last half an hour frustrating myself. I was trying to find a link to a story that I saw referenced on a Facebook posting early this morning. I didn't read much of the story, just that a young person with Down Syndrome had 'snapped' on an airplane flight and attacked a couple of people. It was early, way to early to read this kind of article, I need to enter my day with positive affirmations and a cup of hot tea. I did notice the comment section of the post had people wondering what had happened before the outburst, what he might have been subject to, what the circumstances were that would explain this behaviour. The comments seemed to look for a reason behind the behaviour, which is laudable, but there was also a tone, in some, that once the reason was found then the behaviour would be excused or the blame located elsewhere.
I get this, and I get the concern. The very nature of difference means dealing with prejudice, means knowing that an act by one is seen as an act by all, means knowing that the whole story is never told - particularly if that story seeks to understand rather than inflame bias. A story about one young man with Down Syndrome who acts out on a plane becomes a reason for all people with Down Syndrome to be denied flights. If they applied that standard to movie stars and then first class would be empty most of the time.
It's important that we, as a community, keep the message clear. Inappropriate behaviour is inappropriate behaviour no matter who engages in it. The fact that someone with an intellectual disability in general or Down Syndrome in particular, engages in inappropriate behaviour is simply and indicator that that people with disabilities are just as likely as anyone else to have bad days, do bad things and have really bad moments. It's the 'one' part of 'someone' that people need to focus on. Just like when one person with an intellectual or physical disability climbs Everest means only that one person with an intellectual or physical disability climbed Everest. It doesn't mean more than that.
We are a long way from just being citizens representing only ourselves. I think of this some times when I'm dealing with someone. Will my behaviour or attitude or actions be seen as only mine or will they be seen as 'that's what people with disabilities are like' ... I don't want the burden of being poster boy for the movement, I don't think that anyone should bear that. We are all individuals, our achievements are uniquely ours, our idiosyncrasies are idiosyncratic.
This fellow on the plane, if the story is true, no matter what he did or why he did it - HE did it for HIS reasons. We are not required, as a movement, to explain away his behaviour or justify what he did - we do have a responsibility to ensure, as much as we can, that the full story is told and that his behaviour be seen in context. But cannot be seen to be saying that inappropriate and dangerous behaviour are acceptable when the person has a disability. We'll be our own worst enemies if we suggest that standards be lower for people with disabilities.
One person does what one person does.
That's really the long and short of it isn't it?