Theo Braddy examines myths, stereotypes and assumptions about people with disabilities.
I have spent 39 years living with a disability. I have worked as Executive Director of the Center for Independent Living of Central PA (CILCP) for more than 25 of those years. The mission of the CILCP is to eliminate and prevent barriers faced by people with diverse disabilities. I am also an Adjunct Professor at Millersville University teaching courses on discrimination and oppression of persons with disabilities.
I share all of this to let you know that I am convinced that the key thing that causes discrimination and oppression of people with disabilities by people without disabilities is a lack of understanding. This lack of understanding causes people without disabilities to do and say very inappropriate things. This lack of understanding is most prevalent in the medical field. Here is a simple incident that occurred in my life about 10 years ago:
The Worthless Leg
On a routine visit to my doctor, a mass was discovered in my left leg. It was decided a biopsy was needed to determine if it was cancerous. It turned out to be a cancerous tumor and it had to be removed. I recalled going into the Specialist’s office with my wife to get an update and discuss a plan of action even though I already knew it would result in surgery. I was prepared for some surgery but I wasn't prepared for what came out of his mouth - he proceeded to tell my left leg would need to be amputated. As I sat there trying to process what he had just shared with me I will never forget his next words; he said he didn’t think it should be much of a problem for me since I was paralyzed and the leg didn't work normally any way. I have never forgotten those words!
Myth #8: Paralyzed limbs that are not functional should be amputated.
Reality: People with disabilities view their bodies as a whole, regardless of paralysis or deformity of those limbs.
There are many things that people without disabilities just don't know, even professional people like that specialist who eventually amputated what he believed to be a ‘worthless leg’. It can be something little or something big, but it all comes back to a lack of knowledge and understanding that eventually leads to discrimination and oppression of people with all type of disabilities.
Education is the key!
Yes, my leg didn't work but it was my leg; it was a part of my body!