I’m subscribed to a list serve around invisible disabilities through Google. It’s one of those where people communicate back and forth around issues they may have going on in their lives. For the most part, it’s impressive how these folks support and help each other with real life problems they face. I don’t contribute much because I often feel like a bit of an outsider.
However; I couldn’t keep my trap shut this morning when I read an exchange around discrimination. Actually, it began yesterday when someone new to the group wrote about her frustration with what she feels has been neglect regarding her brain injury diagnosis. She ended her message asking the group if they believe they suffer from discrimination.
What got me going was a reply sent from one of the other participants. He wrote that he feels discrimination frequently from people in his community. He wrote that people look at him and think he’s “a retard” although he claims to have an IQ of 135. When I read that sentence I could feel the hair on the back of my neck rise. I knew immediately that it was an appropriate time for me to weigh in on things.
I wrote to him; “I believe that in order to rid society of discrimination toward folks with disabilities, we have to start in our own back yard. People with cognitive disabilities ("retards" as you say) are no less viable people than folks with IQs of 135. Until ALL people with disabilities treat EACH OTHER as equals in their communities, there's not much reason to hope that the rest of the population will stop discriminating.”
I don’t know how this guy is going to receive what I wrote, but I felt that it had to be done. What he wrote demonstrates to me that we have a long way to go in realizing we’re all in this thing called life together, and quoting the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King Junior; “Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. This is the interrelated structure of reality”.