1 in 700
When my son was born I read that 1 in 700 babies are born with Down syndrome. That statistic reassured me. I mean, that’s a lot of people. Surely every American at least knows someone who knows someone with Down syndrome.
It turns out, The Global Down Syndrome Foundation says that 38% of all Americans personally know someone with Down syndrome. I don’t really get that because the average American knows 600 people, but in any case, it’s not so rare no one’s heard of it. So rare that people should whisper it. It is the most frequent chromosomal disorder and that should give it a little clout, right?Ha! Don’t get me started. We’ll save that irony for another day. Today we’re talking about disability in general.
In the US there are an estimated 73 million people living with a disability. Patching together these same numbers, that means each person likely knows around 138 people who live with a disability. People with disabilities are the largest minority group in America.
So what is the problem? What is the big deal? When I was a kid, I mean a kid kid, I always told myself, “Everyone has something.” Meaning everyone has something that makes their life a little harder than the person next to them. I had a friend with epilepsy and one that was nearly blind.
And now? I have friends who live with mental illness, intellectual disability, can’t walk, can’t hear, can’t work, and that doesn’t even include the children of my friends with a whole ‘nother range of abilities and disabilities.
So, again, what’s the problem? You’d think with 23% of the population living with a disability it wouldn’t be so hard. Hard to get a fair shot at…anything. Everything. But, it is. If you doubt me, check any of the well written notes from Bad Cripple
Plus Everything Else
And let’s face it, “disability” is only one thing these said 73 million people have in common. After that, they are also a sub group of all other sub groups. Gender, Race, Income, Sexuality, Religion and so on all play into the big picture of each person’s attributes and consequently the reactions, accommodations, prejudices for or against and available resources.
An Inclusive Society
Down Syndrome Uprising asked: What would a truly inclusive society look like?
Inclusion leads me to think about the difference between equal and fair.
Not the same thing.
It’s like a square is a rectangle but a rectangle is not a square.
The thing is I don’t want everything equal. I want it fair.
I want first responders to account for the fact he will take minutes longer to process a command or question.
It’s the 21st century, buildings should be accessible.
ASL should be available at community events.
In America the person next to me should be able to eat food that won’t make them sick, be it meat or gluten or peanut free. Not that allergies are a disability, but it’s the same principle.
What is Fair?
I mean, is it fair that a school cannot serve peanut butter for one student? YES IT IS. Get over yourself if you think that your kid’s right to peanut butter is greater than another kid’s right to breathe.
Is it fair that you have to look past the ASL interpreter to watch an event? Really? This is how some people communicate. Because it is.
Is it fair that you have to take over a phone call for a coworker who has an epileptic seizure? Um, Yes. Yes it is. Is your job that much harder than the lightning storm flashing through his brain? What’s really not fair here?
A Little Empathy Goes a Long Way
Seriously people. An inclusive society is one where people make decisions based more on empathy than self-interest. Where people are open-minded to difference instead of narrow-minded with fear. And fear of what, anyway?And to be clear, empathy not sympathy. But that, too, is for another day.
Ok. So it turned into the rant I was afraid it would. The UN’s “International Day of Persons with Disabilities” is going to be over before I consolidate this into a coherent post.
The UN is calling for, “an inclusive society and development for all.” And guess what? That may mean a little more consideration from able bodies and minds. Consideration that’s not so hard, in the spectrum of things. Because let’s face it, just because a kid can’t eat peanuts doesn’t mean he can’t grow up to be a great inventor or contributor to the greater good? The persons who needs an interpreter also have money to spend in the community, if the community encourages or dare I say embraces them. A person working with epilepsy is not a “burden” on society, being a working, active, tax paying person. The child with special need in an inclusive classroom is teaching everyone a different lesson.
It’s like Rudolf. You know, the reindeer who had to prove himself worthy? Given the chance, his difference saved Christmas. Saved Christmas people!
Why can’t we learn from the mistakes of that mean old Santa? I mean, what a jerk.
But I digress. Again. What was the question?
What would a truly inclusive society look like?
How about when every child is seen like this:
“O, I believe – Fate smiled and destiny – Laughed as she came to my cradle – Know this child will be able – Laughed as she came to my mother – Know this child will not suffer – Laughed as my body she lifted – Know this child will be gifted – With love, with patience and with faith – She’ll make her way”
– Natalie Merchant
When every person is empowered to:
… “Maybe there’s a way out of the cage where you live – Maybe one of these days you can let the light in – Show me how big your brave is.”
– Sara Bareilles
And if everyone, everyone chose to realize:
“Even with our differences – There is a place we’re all connected – Each of us can find each other’s light”
What do you think?
Happy International Day of Persons with Disabilities!
I know what the world would look like. We have a long way to go.
In he meantime – read again with the music playing.
It’s more fun that way.
& don’t forget, you can Join the Club for Grown Ups & Downs Updates here.
*Originally Posted in Dec 2013. Put into the world again for #TBT and also because, I’m still thinking about this. What about you?