Make Them Go Away



From Chapter 14: Disabled 'R' Us.

Most people don't think all that much about "the disabled." Uncle Joe has a bad heart. Christopher Reeve is a brave man, overcoming a personal tragedy by fighting to walk again. We see that they have met up with personal misfortune, and we want to help them if we can.

When we think about "the disabled" as a group, it isn't to view them as a "real" minority like African Americans. We feel sorry for the ones that we believe are truly disabled, who "can't help it." We're willing for those people to have special stuff like handicapped parking and bigger toilet stalls. But the vast group making up "the disabled" are not truly disabled, we think. They're like welfare queens, and we have to guard constantly against that group -- "the disabled" -- getting too big and too demanding of us. If we don't rein them in, their demands will continue until they bankrupt society. If we don't keep our guard up, there'll be no more standards for being responsible for one's own situation anymore.

We really wanted them all to just go away. They could do that either by getting themselves cured, becoming normal again -- that would be best -- or they could go away by stopping their whining about wanting us to change things for them. Even women, blacks and gays didn't ask that we change bricks-and-mortar things; didn't ask that we restructure our entire society, our job sites, our ways of doing business!! That was going too far. It was worse than affirmative action -- and we didn't believe in that, either.

The problem with this reasoning was this: we were always falling into disability ourselves. In truth, there was no real "us" and "them." Each of us could slip into disability as easily as slipping into our shoes. And many of us had: an accident on the ski slopes. A heart condition flaring up in our 50s, so we had to slow down. High blood pressure. Our supervisor wondered whether we ought to be kept on the job when our physical came back showing macular degeneration had begun. Ten-hour days at the computer terminal at the office and repetitive motion injuries set in, inflaming our wrists, shooting pain through our shoulder, making it impossible to lift our arms high enough to pull on a sweater.

It was time for us to wake up. Sooner or later, it was likely we would find ourselves thought of as "disabled" in some situation or another. We would encounter stigma. We'd be excluded, shut out by a barrier that was illegal under disability rights law. Sooner or later, we would likely need some accommodation. Whether the accommodation was considered something "special" "for the handicapped" or something entirely normal, a typical option, depended entirely on whether society considered the item in question something for everyone -- like electric garage door openers -- or "for the handicapped" -- like a house with a ramp. | BOOK ORDERING INFO |

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