Thursday, January 21, 2016

A Disability Exercise for Allies

Imagine…


You are born sighted into a world of unsighted people who have heightened other senses to navigate their world. Their sense of smell, hearing, and touch are exaggerated. But you, you can see and so as a consequence your other senses work, but not as keenly. But you do not mind because...SIGHT! You see colors and shadows and shades though you have no words to express these things. And though the human-made world such as buildings and structures are drab since the unsighted have created them, you see shapes and contrast against the colors of the natural world.

You see the blue sky, the green fields, the rich variation of nature and all its splendid colors, tints, and shades - Nature's Art. If only you had a way to convey this information to the unsighted. But alas, because they cannot see, there is no language to describe these things. You try, no matter.

When you attempt to explain to the unsighted about what you see, they tell you that you are not making any sense. They tell you that what you have to say is not meaningful. They tell you that you are disabled and therefore what you are attempting to explain is not good. They pity you.

They focus on your deficits. They worry that you cannot smell as intensely as they can. They fret over your inability to hear as acutely as they do. They fear that you will never be able to achieve great things in life because “what you see” is interfering with your ability to function in this world.

They tell you that they are working hard to find a cure for your sightedness. They hope to find a way to cure this bad sight and improve your good senses. They are working toward finding the “sightedness gene” so that they can prevent future cases of sightedness.

You feel broken. You feel bad. But you still cannot understand how seeing all the wonderful things is so wrong. If only you could convey what you see.

Then suddenly one day you notice another person looking up at a colorful bird flying overhead. They see you looking at them. They are sighted as well!
http://7-themes.com/6960608-bird-bee-eater-nature-flowers.html
You begin talking about your experiences and find how much you have in common. You have mutual struggles – the inability to communicate what you see in words, the frustrations of trying to get the others to understand that seeing does not make you less – than but makes you unique, the fears you have of those trying to remove your sightedness from you, and the terrifying idea of preventing future sighted persons from being born. The struggles you have with others expecting you to smell and hear as strongly as they do. You decide there must be others and set out to find them.

Over time, you find others and form a disability community of sighted people. But while this happens, parents of sighted persons all over the world also attempt to join this disability community. Both want society to treat those with sight better. But the goals of the entities are very different.

The sighted people want to keep their sight and promote the goodness of sight. They know that being able to see is a wonderful thing for them yet acknowledge they are disadvantaged in this world due to their other weaker senses.

But the parents, they do not understand this. They believe that their children are harmed by their sightedness. The parents believe that the sighted only believe they are benefiting because they do not know any better. The parents say that the sighted are not able to make good decisions because they are disabled. They say the sighted do not have the capability to determine what is best for themselves. The parents fight hard against allowing the sighted to advocate for change in society.

The unsighted also hold power. They form large organizations dedicated to stopping and preventing sightedness. They recruit sponsorships from trusted corporations and celebrities.

Meanwhile, you and the other sighted try desperately to speak out against removing your sight. But the behemoth organization continues to drown you out with their massive campaigns that promote fear. They tell the unsighted public that sighted people are dangerous. They scream that the sighted are costing the unsighted too much money. And they promote the idea that the sighted are burdens to their families.

But you keep on trying to change the perception of sight. You still have no words to convey these beautiful colors that you see. You cannot accurately explain what it is like to see. You attempt to communicate how you are okay with your other sensory deficits as a sacrifice for this amazing gift of sight but no one listens. But you hope with all your heart that someone, someday will finally hear you. 

Now...replace sightedness with a known disability and read this again.

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