Good Intentions, Bad Results

Hi, readers. Yesterday, we sort of played “What’s Wrong with this Picture” with the links I gave you. Since the holiday season tends to make all kinds of games popular, I thought we’d play a different one today. I’ve heard it called Hinky Pinky or “spoonerisms,” where the answer consists of two rhyming terms with the same number of syllables. For those of you who have played, indulge me. For those of you who haven’t, have fun with these, taken from a book of word games a friend gave me several years ago. I’ll start with one-syllable answers and then move up. Here we go:

  1. Stupid finger
  2. Inebriated animal
  3. Dock for little people
  4. unreliable dill
  5. fishy operating room doctor
  6. careful pupil
  7. yearly handbook
  8. ominous clergyman
  9. tantrum Cleopatra throws
  10. display of sweets
  11. bubbly teenager
  12. meatless lover of old things

If you didn’t get them all, don’t worry; I’ll supply the answers at the end of the post. But just for fun, let’s see if you can get this five-syllable one. (Hint: it has to do with perception of disability).

Warm, fuzzy feelings that cause unfair treatment

Okay, so I’m not as good at making these up as answering them. But the answer is: inspiration discrimination.

You may have never heard of it, but you’ve probably seen it. It’s what happens when a high school boy with autism who’s never been allowed to play–or even wear a jersey–on his school’s basketball team before, is allowed to play in the last game of the season, when the team is already kicking its opponent’s butt halfway to Canada, and scores twenty points. The crowd goes wild, the newspaper has a great human-interest story, and the boy is put on a plane to meet the President of the United States.

To this, you’re probably saying one of two things. Either, “that’s weird,” or “what’s wrong with that?”

Or how about this one? A college student with a severe disability, who has entered a program that ends with a certificate, is not allowed to walk across the stage at graduation–because no one in his or her certificate-based program walks across the stage, disability or not. But several people in the university, including the entire student government, are pushing for the student with the severe disability to be allowed to walk the stage (unlike everyone else in the program).

Are you saying, “that’s weird” or “what’s wrong with that?”

If you said “that’s weird” to these examples–you’re right. Both are examples of inspiration discrimination.

So, what exactly is inspiration discrimination? Simply put, it is what occurs when a person with a disability’s accomplishments are made much of, or played up, when, if that person DID NOT have a disability, those same accomplishments would be either ignored or not given more attention than they are actually due. In other words, let’s go back to the basketball player with autism. Scoring twenty points on your own in a basketball game, especially the last of the season, when your team has already kicked booty halfway to Canada, is a big deal. But it’s probably not a big enough deal to bring the President into it, right?

Right–unless you have autism.

If that boy did not have autism, his twenty points in a basketball game would be just that. But because he does have autism, they’re a huge deal. The thing is, the huge deal is being made of the autism, not the person himself or the accomplishment. As in, “Who knew someone with a tragic diagnosis of autism could do something so good?”

Okay, let’s return to the student with a severe disability at the university (which actually happened at my university). Students, with and without disabilities, raised absolute heck when this student’s right to walk across the stage was questioned. And yes, it is true that having a severe disability and earning a degree or certificate of any kind is an accomplishment. But the question remains: if no one in your program, disability or not, is allowed to walk across the stage (because that is reserved for students who earn degrees, not certificates), should you be allowed to walk the stage only because of a disability?

If the disability did not exist, would there still be a story? Would there still be a reason to be inspired?

Maybe–but maybe not. For example, my local newspaper did a story on me when I earned my first Master’s degree–because it was the latest in a string of three degrees. And yes, CP was a big part of that story. But the thing is–disability or not, I would venture to say not a lot of people earn three college degrees in a row. If you take the disability away, there’s still a story. And–heres the kicker–said story is not based on inspiration–as in, “handicapped woman makes good.” It’s based on the real accomplishment of earning three degrees. And I propose that stories based on their own, merit-worthy accomplishments are all people with disabilities–or any of us–really want.

Think about it. How many feel-good newspaper stories, tearjerker books, or sappy movies have you seen where the character with a disability (if there even is one in a starring role) is basically there only to inspire others? “Sure, little Danny couldn’t walk or talk. But he taught me how to love?” Or, “Sure, little Sarah’s IQ hovered at 35. But she was smarter than us all, because she knew the truth–that we shouldn’t be selfish and greedy?”

Now, I’m not knocking people with disabilities’ ability to teach or do these things. If you’re the parent, guardian, friend, or other loved one of a person with a disability, you probably know this firsthand. What I’m proposing here is that it’s wrong to make a person with a disability into a martyr or a novelty–a person whose only purpose is to inspire others and take away vices and avarice from his or her corner of the world. It cheats them out of a real, normal life. And when we make much of them for doing something that, had there not been a disability in the equation, wouldn’t be a big deal–say, sitting on the couch–it cheats them even more. Plus, it puts them in a box: “The only thing we can really be proud of Sarah for is her ability to button a button, after months and months of therapy.” And it makes those of us without disabilities seem or feel incapable of being inspiring–when we truly can, and truly are, every day.

Let’s get them out of the box. Let’s replace inspiration discrimination with real inspiration–for all, disability or not.

 

Answers:

1. Dumb thumb

2. Drunk skunk

3. Dwarf wharf

4. Fickle pickle

5. Sturgeon surgeon

6. Prudent student

7. Annual manual

8. Sinister minister

9. Egyptian conniption

10. Confection collection

11. Effervescent adolescent

12. Vegetarian antiquarian

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