The following post is an excerpt of an article By Carol Glazer | Time
OUR SOCIETY SHOULD TELL PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES
THEY CAN WORK AND LIVE EQUALLY
Twenty four years ago my son, Jacob, was born with hydrocephalus, or water on the brain. After several surgeries, doctors told us Jacob would be living with both physical and intellectual disabilities. They also told us not to expect much of Jacob in terms of his ability to participate in civic life, community life and in work. And they plunged us into what I now call the “The Tyranny of Low Expectations.”
All these years later when people speak to Jacob, they still infantilize him, speaking slowly, avoiding big words, as if he’s a toddler. It may not seem like a big deal, but for people with disabilities and their families, it is among the largest challenges we face. Like Jacob, it starts early in life for someone born with a disability, or after acquiring a disability for those who do so later in life. The bar on expectations for that person is often set so low by doctors, teachers, friends and even families that the person with a disability lives with artificially low ceilings.
The reasons for the tyranny of low expectations are rooted in our societal approach to disability, which has historically been viewed as a problem to be fixed (and in many cases feared or isolated), versus a natural part of the human condition that each of us is likely to encounter in our lives. In the past, people with intellectual disabilities were sent away from their families to institutions, where they would not be threats to public safety. I shudder when I think how, if Jacob had been born only 20 years earlier, he’d likely have been taken away from me.
We’ve also viewed disability as a problem whose responsibility to find solutions rests with the individual, not with the community or our collective society. The passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act 26 years ago this week effectively declared that people with disabilities had a right to participate in all aspects of life, in their community and the workplace. And our society—our builders, our bosses and our brethren—has to provide reasonable accommodations to enable people with disabilities to participate.
But we have not yet raised that low-set bar on expectations that means most Americans with a disability receive a continuous flood of signals—some intentional, some not—that tell us that we cannot really expect to work, or learn or participate equally.
Thanks to Carol Glazer, President of National Association on Disability for sharing her thoughts; Time for committing its resources to publishing the story; Google for helping me find President Glazer’s thoughts; and the people who, directly or indirectly made it possible to include the picture, text, and links in this post.