Friday, June 13, 2008

Borrowed from Temple University's Disability Studies Blog

**I thought that this essay was great. It really made me think about myself and how I choose to live my life. And it really made me think about what I would tell a young person with a disability. So many layers... So much to consider... So much to really think about...
so, I thought I would share it with you. Let me know what you think.**

What Should We Tell Them?
Outside of my office window I have seen lines of young graduates since at Temple there is a event hall used for many programs such as Graduation. Looking
around my office, I also see a lineup of Disability Studies books from theory to autobiography to poetry. I then glance up on my wall and see my degree,
which I earned many years ago. All of this caused me to reflect on the youth with disabilities who are today's graduates.

In many ways, their experience of life and their micro and macro worlds are quite different than my generation of peers with disabilities. Certainly this
is a great accomplishment for society, but then reality sinks in and I realize that in many ways the youth of today are facing the same challenges of discrimination
and stereotypes as we.

So what advice can we give a young person with a disability who has dreams and aspirations and may still be innocent of the thorns that may wound the spirit
and bruise the ego? Do we tell him or her about the different theories of social repression experienced by those in any minority? Do we speak of making
activism a relentless activity that consumes all your energy and concentration? Do we deconstruct for him or her the inequality of privilege and how this
nebulous concept is ironically very concrete and palpable in one's daily existence? Should we explain how to be skeptical and wary of employers who may
seem receptive but who are just skilled at understanding the Americans With Disabilities Act, and who don't want to be accused of discrimination? And last
of all do we espouse the ideals of independence, and how one must do everything at the sacrifice of their own comfort and simple life pleasures to prove
their independence?

Naturally these rhetorical questions imply a set of values that should be questioned by scholars and other proponents of disability rights and culture.
Although the social and political climate in which I grew up in many ways was thought of as progressive and liberating, I am now understanding that many
of the ideologies which I osmonically inhaled were variations of the dominant social culture's values and beliefs. I hope that my advice to youth with
disabilities might be just a little bit less demanding and a little more empathetic of the totality of their person. I hope that among the words of wisdom
I would give is that everyone has their own wisdom inside. That they should spend equal if not more time and energy enjoying themselves and their peers,
having fun, being reckless, not being bound to a regiment of goals. Spend the days and evenings exploring life through laughter and yes, through love.
Love and be loved. Be empowered by being yourself, by being weak when you feel overwhelmed, and by reaching out when you need others. People who are able-bodied
do this all the time. They just don't have it formalized the way people with disabilities are expected to go through a certain procedure of accessing help.

My last piece of advice, which probably will make a lot of people within and outside of the disability community wince, is be damned with independence.
It is not the measurement of one's value. There is nothing more courageous and genuine than saying, "I am confident and comfortable enough in myself that
I know I need you to help me get through or even just be where I am."
Posted by Carol Marfisi at
Temple University's Disability Studies Blog

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