So what’s your typical morning routine like? Maybe you grumble at the alarm clock before lazily getting out of bed, and then make your way to the shower. After a quick breakfast or a sip of coffee you’re on your way to the bus or your car for a lovely morning commute. And after spending that amazing hour stuck in traffic you get to park at Cal State L.A., or the bus drops you off about a half mile from where you might actually want to be. And of course the California weather has your back, because it’ll either be hot enough to make pancakes on the sidewalk, gloomy and windy enough to inspire you to write a blue’s song, or raining hard enough that you consider wearing swimming goggles. And if this morning hasn’t been the best yet, you still have all those lovely stairs to climb before starting your day!
But pause for a minute and think about how your morning would be if you couldn’t walk or if you couldn’t see. Disability creates a world that is different from the one we typically see. There are mountains that people with disabilities have to climb over every day; mountains that the privileged only perceive to be inconvenient and annoying. By critically examining the environment we can see how the physical structure is adapted to provide access to those that are physically disabled. However, if we examine the social environment, can we reach the same conclusion? And what about the individuals with psychological disabilities? How do people treat those with Down syndrome, attention deficit disorder, or obsessive compulsive personality disorder?
There’s something called a “social model of disability,” which explains that people think of the human body as a machine, and should the machine ever “break” there is a need to fix it so the machine can still function properly. But there’s the notion that the machine has to be fixed in order to be accepted by society. It is in this sense that, although a tragic accident may have caused a disability, it is society that keeps a person disabled.
So I’m going to leave you with a challenge: critically examine how we interact with people with disabilities. Are we accommodating? Are we supportive? Do we patronize? Disability is a culture, lest we forget. It is the path that some people take; it is not the destination or the outcome. It’s important to treat everyone as human beings, whether they be in a wheelchair, unable to hear, of a different religion, or a different color. We’re all human, so we all have the right to be treated with respect.