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Campaign poster by The Home of Fixers urging people not to treat those with disabilities differently
As another winter storm passes through, and snow blankets the hilly streets, and freezing rain threatens travel again, I think about my work with the elderly, and my own parents, as even the able-bodied hunker down, leaving the roads amazingly clear.
Grocery shopping, an adventure in-and-of-itself, is a problem in cold weather anywhere, but especially for those we have designated as “The Disabled”. In the U.S.A. many accommodations have been made for “invalids”, which leads me to ask: in-valid to whom or for what? Why do we call people with “disabilities” in-valid?
The word itself comes from the Latin: invalidus, which means “not strong” or “ineffective”(in–not, + validus–strong). The strong always seem to demean the weaker. In the U.S., the “disabled” have been granted “honored citizen” status and the laws have been written to give these fine folks “a break”. Special parking places have been reserved just for them with a special permit card from the Department of Motor Vehicles. Sidewalks are now required to have “disabled-friendly” ramps, and most businesses have accessible ramps designed into their architecture.
Competition for disabled spaces is fierce, and some drivers sneak into them without the special permission card. (Naturally, these spaces are the closest to the stores!) It takes a lot of social engineering and outright neighborly courtesy to get everyone on board with this philosophy, but I have found that this system really works!
The natural process of ageing leads most of us down the road to “disability” but, in my opinion, not to in-validity. There is still so much disabled people can and will do, in spite of all the inconvenient obstacles life presents. Think of the war-wounded, the accidented and the simply ill with crippling diseases which modern medicine has already or is trying still to cure. These people are not “invalid” at all.
U.S. Federal Law prohibits discrimination and encourages accommodation, and I have concluded that we are on the right track. So many thoroughly valuable people have been “disabled” in so many ways, that we just might have to make more spaces for them. “They” in reality are all of us!
Can you imagine how insulting it is to be called “in-valid”? What a nahsty, nahsty, nahsty way to put it! (using my English grandmother’s accent…)
Not to name names to protect their privacy, there are “disabled” people working right alongside the trim, fit and strong. Some physical difficulties can be overcome with physical therapy and other forms of guidance from the experts. And even mental disabilities can be accommodated, including dementia and other age-related difficulties. “Where there’s life, there’s hope”!
When we are young, we can’t imagine not being able to walk or run, or climb stairs, or bathe ourselves, or feed ourselves, and we tend to shunt the elderly aside in our rush to “live our own lives”. Then the piper has to be paid when we ourselves grow old, and all our ambitions seem somewhat foolish and selfish.
We accumulate, and then find that we have to downsize to survive.
“Disabled” people have life and feelings and ambitions too, just as “valid” as anyone else’s. There are many online dating services in the U.S., including those dedicated to so-called “invalids”.
Now that is progress!
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