The News Tribune of Tacoma, Washington recently published a piece by Angie Leventis in the Local section titled: Changing how we see disability.
Cliff Schulman has a strong dislike for the word “accommodate.”
For the disabled, accommodations are an afterthought, he says – a change in the normal environment, done for people who presumably aren’t normal.
He champions equal access, where the world is made attainable to everyone regardless of need because that’s just the way things are done.
Buildings are designed for all people from the very beginning, including ramps, wide doorways and hand bars in bathrooms.
“We shouldn’t have to think about access as a special thing,” he says. “Eventually, it will be taken for granted.”
Although the article does not mention the phrase "special needs," I dare to suggest that it go by the wayside along with the damning "accomodations."
We don't want "accomodations" and we don't have "special needs."
We have pretty much the same needs as everyone else does.
There is nothing special about the need to be able to access services, move around our chosen environments, live, breathe, eat, take a dump, read, interact with people, or love.
That I may need to use a cane while walking on uneven surfaces or use an anti-glare computer screen is not a "special need." I do those things to fulfill my wishes to navigate through either the physical environment or the electronic environment.
That a friend may need hearing aids or a wheelchair or slate and stylus are also not "special needs." The need to interact with our environment in a meaningful way is not "special."
"Special needs" and "accomodations" are words which serve to divide people into neat non-threatening categories. Those people who are not disabled get to hide behind words. "They" don't have special needs and they don't need accomodations. "They" are just fine, thank you very much. They deny ever having to face the things that we have had to face. Somehow, they are properly immune to becoming disabled-- another statistic.
I did not wake up one morning and decide to go out and get a traumatic brain injury. My tbi was a sudden random-occuring event. My car accident happened. And it could have happened-- and does happen-- to anyone.
Let's stop the pigeon-holing of human beings. Focusing on equal access for everyone makes far more sense than narrowing our vision to the perceived special needs of and accomodations for some.
We are more than our labels and stronger than our problems.
What shall we do with the words "special needs" and "accomodations?"
Friday, July 07, 2006
No matter who we are, we are all completely and utterly alone in our own skins. We may surround ourselves with human company. We may feed off of crowds, join clubs and organizations, and dash about. We can allow ourselves to get carried away within chosen spiritual pursuits. We can lean towards the opposite and refuse to engage with much of anyone or anything at all. We can choose isolation or inactivity or "going with the flow" as a lifestyle.
I have been both the drifter and the planner, the dreamer and the doer, the mystic and the dogmatic. Relentless, my own alone-ness pursued me. Within my own healing, I have found again and again that escapism does not quell it and religious ecstasy does not kill it. I had to stop running. I had to meet my self and embrace my self. I had to learn how to value the thing that was most natural to fear.
Once I accepted this alone-ness, I was able to work on things like self-empowerment and building community.