It is a sad reality the people with disabilities are treated as if they have no value. You are placed in a box by a mere label of a diagnosis, and deemed as if you have nothing to contribute to the world.
I have grown up knowing that I was different because of my disability. I tried my best to not allow people to treat me as different, but instead to make accommodations so that I could do what ‘normal’ people do but in a different way. Deep down though you know that you are just being a burden to those set with the task of making accommodations for your needs. However, when you are a child or even a young adult studying in tertiary education people are much more willing to see you as a person of value and seem much more happy to make necessary modifications. Try entering into the workforce and it seems to be an entirely different story.
For starters some people cannot seem to fathom that a person with a disability is actually capable of doing a normal desk job that requires the use of intelligence. They cannot seem to grasp that one has studied, and got the same degrees and qualifications as a ‘normal’ person. Try entering into the workforce with illnesses on top of a physical disability, and you have no hope at all. So you’re given the assistance of disability employment services to help you find a job, but they generally seem unable to find a ‘proper’ job for a person with a disability. They’ll offer you jobs on assembly lines, or photocopying all day. They cannot seem to understand that you are qualified and capable of doing a job in an office just like anyone else who has the same degrees and qualifications that you have. Perhaps this is because as a society people with disabilities have no value? Perhaps this is because we see them as having nothing to contribute to a workplace? Perhaps we simply don’t see them as capable?
Once in the workplace we seem to think that people with disabilities shouldn’t be treated in accordance with the law. We seem to think that it’s acceptable to underpay them because they are ‘slower’ than others. We seem to think that it’s acceptable to threaten abuse and even abuse them. We don’t see that actually we have a greater duty of care towards the person with a disability. Instead we aim to exploit them. Is this because we see that people with disabilities have lesser worth and value in a workplace?
And then there are people with profoundly severe disabilities who cannot work. So we leave them at home and offer support through support workers. Some support workers don’t treat them with the level of respect and dignity they deserve. Instead we have alarmingly high rates of abuse towards people with disabilities in our society. These are people who cannot defend themselves physically or perhaps verbally complain about a person abusing them. So instead the people assigned to care for them, get away with abusing them. But this just doesn’t occur at people’s homes but also in the institutions we have designed to care for people with disabilities. Perhaps these are the day centres we send them to, where we treat them as children, despite the fact that they do have an intellect of an adult. Or perhaps it’s in then nursing homes where we have left them for the next twenty or thirty years because there are few out of home care places for young people with profound disabilities. Do we think that it is acceptable to abuse people with disabilities in their own homes because they have no value? Do we think it’s acceptable to treat adults with disabilities as children because they have no value to be treated like an adult? Do we not build enough suitable facilities for people with disabilities because they have no value?
The reality is that some in society do not see people with disabilities as people too. We don’t see that despite having a disability that the person in front of us or who we are caring for has the same value and worth in God’s eyes as you do. We seldom see that a person with a disability is still an image bearer of God. We see their faults. We see their differences and we think that they don’t have the same value as me. People with disabilities know that is how we are seen. But the reality is we do have value.
You may see that I have nothing to contribute in a workplace or to a friendship or sporting clubs or community group, but the reality is I do and you’re the one missing out on what I can contribute. My experience and circumstances in life may be very different to yours but that doesn’t mean that I have no value. In fact my experiences can add to the environment that you wish to exclude me from because of my differences. My differences give me a unique perspective on things, and may enhance your workplace, our friendship, sporting club and community group.
My differences don’t allow you to exclude me, abuse me or neglect me because I have value too. You may see that I have no value but I do, because I was made by the Creator of the universe just like you!