(warning: this post contains the use of the 'r-word' in a quote and in a reference to the quote.)
On our drive across the top of the States, headed, towards the Maritimes Joe and I have been surfing up and down the radio dial. Oftentimes we can find a station we want to listen to, but equally often it only last for a few miles before a turn in the road or a change in elevation replaces music with static. It's been a bit frustrating.
Yesterday I was using the search button, fruitlessly, to find something to listen to. So we heard a few seconds of a lot of stations. On one of the stations we heard the voice of an older man reading a script about 'Skippy.' Skippy was a young boy with cerebral palsy. Once having told us that, he reads on to describe what cerebral palsy is and he gets, fairly predictably to the part when it seems mandatory to say, something like, "those with cerebral palsy have minds that are perfectly fine, however they are often treated and spoken to as if they are retarded." He went on to say how wrong this was, that they should "never be treated as if they are retarded."
Before I continue let me say that I really didn't want to type that word, the 'R word.' I decided, in the end that I needed to because it's what he said and because the sheer shock of the word is part and parcel of what I want to say. As the quoting is finished, rest assured I will refer to the 'word' but not use it again until the end of this piece, where, again, I think it is needed as a reference back to the radio broadcast.
On hearing this short bit of broadcast, you can bet my thumb pushed the search button right after he'd mentioned how horrible it was to be treated that way. I turned to Joe and expressed extreme frustration using another word, that begins with another letter lower down in the alphabet. We both lit into the station for airing this, the editor for not catching that this word should not be used as it's considered offensive by pretty much anyone who loves both language and people. It's unnecessary. It hurts. That's enough.
I want to look, though, a little bit past how he said what he said to what he actually said. He is making comment that people with other disabilities are resentful of being treated like they have an intellectual disability. This, of course, plays into the hierarchy of disability and people don't want to be treated like they are a 'notch' down from where they are on that hierarchy. But it also is a commentary that being treated 'that way' is unpleasant and uncomfortable and damages self hood.
And what way is that?
You don't have to think hard?
Let's make a brief list, feel free to add your own. Being treated 'that way' means:
1) being spoken to in the voice used for puppies who piss on the floor.
2) being on the outside circle of conversations about you
3) being invisible to clerks and waiters and receptionists and doctors ...
4) being highly visible to abusers, rapists and bullies
5) being required to receive paid support from people you don't hire
6) being assumed to have no future
7) being assumed to have no ability to learn
8) being assumed, constantly, to be less than you are
9) being constantly expected to fail
10) being the 'dear' in the phrase, 'oh the poor little dear'
I made this list in less than three minutes, exactly as long as it took me to type the words. Trouble is, this is no where near an exhaustive list. Where did I get this list? I avoided my own personal experience with seeing how people with disabilities are treated, I dove into memory looking for all the things that people with intellectual disabilities have said in workshops, either abuse prevention or rights training or bullying prevention,
So let me say clearly what I've heard over and over again.
People with intellectual disabilities don't want to be treated like the are 'retarded' either.They'd, like all of us, prefer even just a little bit of respect.