Tag Archives: Civil Rights

Inclusion vs. Insertion or Integration

On a post on disability acceptance, someone commented that insertion is not the same as inclusion. This means that putting disabled people in mainstream classrooms, in the community, etc., does not automatically lead to them being accepted into that comunity. In this sense, there are parallels to the racial and gender equality movement, but there are also differences. The parallel involves the fact that, just because for example African-Americans were finally legally allowed to sit in the front of the bus in the 1960s, doesn’t mean they weren’t bullied into the back anymore. The difference, which to soe extent applied to certain groups of ethnic minorities too, is the need for accommodations to be made to fully include disabled people.

There is another word that is frequently used in disability situations and which is commonly used for ethnic minorites: integration. Integration involves not just insertion, but the expectation on the part of the majority that the ethnic minority or disabled person adapt to the majority. In a sense, this is somewhat opposite to inclusion, where the majority makes reasonable accommodations for the minority. It is also contrary to acceptance, because, while the majority tolerate the minority once integrated, they won’t accept them the if they don’t meet up to the cultural norms of the majority.

I have often struggled with the social model of disability, because it to some extent ignores the fact that disable dpeople aren’t just as capable as everybody else – an argument used by the women’s and African-American civil rights movements to claim equal rights. With equal rights, after all, come equal responsibilities. To draw a parallel to ethnic minorities again, immigrants to the Netherlands are themselves responsible for making sure they learn Dutch civics and language. I do not personally agree with this, but it is reasonable from a conservative, small government perspective, which is currently holding the majority here. Is it unreasonable then to insist that a person with a disability put every effort into becoming as non-disabled as possible? My heart says it’s unreasonable, but my head is having a hard tiem finding arguments for it.

Autism and Justified Anger

On my autism treatment and acceptance, Autisticook commented by saying that anger in an autistic is often justified. She compared it to the situation where a wheelchiar user gets angry because they are faced with yet another two-step staircase that wasn’t necessary and where nobody thought of installing a ramp. This made me think: are we overpathologizing anger in people with developmental disabilities (and mental illness)? Are we incorrectly assuming that anger is part of the disorder, while it’s just a response to a lack of accommodations? This is obviously not a scientific discussion, as what is a reasonable accommodation depends on your perspective.

I just a few days ago heard about cognitive accessibility, where people accommodate their language, for exxample, for understanding by people with learning difficulties. I’m trying to find an accessible and understandable explanation of this, but can’t seem to find one. What I understan dit to mean, includes for example using simple, straightfoward language. With autistic people, you may need to refrain from using figures of speech, for example.

What if you were dropped in a country where you didn’t speak the language and everyone refused to speak English? Would you get angry? Quite likely you would. Now understand autism as communicating in a different language, too. Is it strange then that the autistic gets angry when you routinely refuse to make an effort to speak their language?

Autism is not just a communication disability. It’s in a way a sensory disability, too. Imagine, again, being in that foreign country and everyone shouting at you for whatever reason. They also randomly shine a flashlight at your eyes for whatever reason. In addition, this country is rich on insects, and they crawl over your body all the time. Would you get frustrated? Sure you would!

We do not medicate wheelchair users for getting frustrated at the umpteenth staircase. You would not want to be put on medication if you were in the aforementioed country. So why do we medicate autistics who are irritable? It’s probably because accommodating them requires a radical paradigm shift in what we always thought access was all about. Is it a more radical shift than the shift towards wheelchiar accessibility? I am not sure.

Excusing or Accepting

Many of the people who commented on my previous post, most of them likely unfamiliar with disability rights, commented on a particular part of it: that in which I talked about disabled people being carelessly excused from meeting normal expectations. While it is true that a disabiity in itself should not be a reason to excuse people, in the sense that people think of the disabled as pitifu and therefre to be excused, disability equality goes far beyond equal expectations. Actually, unless a disabled person commits a crime, they are entitled to the same civil rights and inclusion that abled people are. “Normal”, that is, non-disabled standards of performance should not be relevant here.

People have a right to acceptance, and, while this means they should be expected to behave in an acceptable manner, what this means is really up for debate. Is an autistic not acceptable because they scream? An effort should of course be made to help the autistic unlearn this behavior, but if they can’t, that doesn’t make them less acceptable as a person.

We need to make the distinction here between the behavior and the person. All people have some annoying behaviors that are unacceptable to at least a number of others. We can disapprove of this behavior, but we shouldn’t be excluding the person for this. Note, please, that my comment about annoying behavior goes for disabled as well as non-disabled people. Once a person has a disability, however, accepting them in spite of inappropriate behavior is often seen as excusing.

Disability Hierarchies

Last week, K at Transcending CP wrote an interesitnb blog post on the “us” vs. “them” mentality non-disabled people have about people with disabilities. I commented and mentioned several ways the disabled themsleves have an “us” vs. “them” mentality towards other disabled people. Today, I want to expand on this by discussing disability hierarchies.

First, there is the hierarchy of severity of one particular disability. For example, at the school for the blind which I went to from fourth until sixth grade, the people with some vision had a lively competition of who could see best. We even used to introduce ourselves as “Johnny who has 20/400”. I only actively competed in my first year at this particular school, because in fifthe grade, the partially sighted children (I was going to write “partials” here) and braille readers were merged and I was in a class with only one other braille reader with some vision, who avoided this competition it seemed.

Similarly, among autistic people there is a competition. If you go to Wrong Planet or another Aspie-dominated site, you’ll see that most people there don’t want to associate with “low-functioning” autistics. As a person who is only “high-functioning” in terms of IQ and who despises this hierarchy, I don’t like this. It’s like those with “low-functioning” autism have no right to the acceptance that the “high-functioning” want.

Then there are disability hierarchies that cross lines between different disabilities. An example is my having bullied an intellectually disabled child when I was at the aforementioned school for the blind. I apparently felt that intellectual disability made someone less of a worthwhile human being than visual impairment. I don’t think I actually thought that deeply, but I did bully this girl because of her intellectul impairment. Adults with physical or sensory impairments do have the ability to actually think about this, and it is reflected in statements like “You may be able-bodied but I am able-minded”.

Conversely, the more visible disabilities tend to be viewed as more “real”by some people than developmental or psychiatric disabilities. As a poignant aexample, my psychologist, when describing my disabilities, only mentioned my visual impairment and my slight motor deficits. Also, when I was still on the locked ward several years ago, there was a partially sighted, hard-of-hearing man on my ward who obviously also had severe mental illness. Because of his limited but existent sight and hearing, he was expected to do a few chores that I, being totally blind, was excused from. At one time, I heard a nurse tell him: “You may be twice-disabled, but you are not thrice-disabled.”

For a long time, disabled people have been “them”. The Black civil rights movement was grounded in the belief that Black people are just as capable as Whites. Then the blind and physically disabled and Deaf movements were grounded on the idea that people with sensory or physical disabilities are, with reasonable accommodations, just as capable as people without disabilities. Now people with developmental and psychiatric disabilities are demanding civil rights, an sometimes this si grounded on the same principles, hence creating a new “them” for those who don’t meet the “just as capable” standard. It is my hope that, at one point, we can live without the “us” vs. “them” mentality, but this hope may be idle. After all, as a human race, are we truly evolved enough to recognize each of us as equal? And if we were, then animal rights activists would say that’s still not good enough. Rights activism always demands a shift from “them” to “us” but will there ever not be “them”? And if so, will we survive?