Person-First: You are normal Living Life Fully with a Disability
Okay, you think I am crazy or in denial! Having a disability is not normal, right? WRONG! Most people have a disability, but they do not recognize it. REALLY! We think we are perfect, or close to it, but in reality, we all have deficiencies, lacks, in our abilities whether physically or intellectually. Have difficulty walking from an athletic injury? You have a physical disability. Have a learning difference? You have an intellectual disability. Can not understand people who speak another language? You have a communication disability. Get it? We all have some type of obstacle which makes our lives challenging. We do not have to be blind, deaf, or in a wheelchair to experience the trials of the world of disability. We are all persons with a disability.
And speaking of people with a disability--let's get this right, as in "correct," from the start. We should all use person-first language. It is Not the first person as in the narration of a story with the pronouns I, me, my--I know this format from my years of teaching English and tutoring writing. No, I am speaking of person-first language. We say, "a person with a disability," not "a disabled person." Note the key and important difference. The person comes before the disability. In the language as well as in our social interactions, we must recognize the person first and then the disability. Do we all desire to be recognized first as a person. a human being, before the other characteristics of our gender, race, religious or political affiliations? Is this what the Black Lives Matter movement is all about? Recognizing the basic humanity of people?
I am passionate about persons with disabilities, which means I am passionate and compassionate about all people. My husband and I have a 27-year son who was diagnosed with a rare disease, Langerhans Cell Histiocytosis, (isn't that a mouthful!) when he was 2 years old. Through 12 years of chemotherapy, he experienced developmental delays both physically and intellectually from ages two through ten. We experienced years of educational diagnostics and supportive assistance for our son in his kindergarten through high school education. We had to adjust much in our lives due to his medical and educational diagnosis. The biggest adjustment was our mindset. We saw life through a new lens which was the best part of this period in our lives. Through all his growing years and even now, we see him as our son first and then as a person with a disability. He had chores to do while growing up; he had homework to complete; he was responsible for his behavior. He had to hold his own with his siblings.
When we recognize that we are all people first with feelings, ambitions, and dreams, then we are closer to a kinder world that seeks to understand first and then be understood ourselves. Don't we all want this type of world? Think about your own struggles and how you wish someone could relate to your challenges.
Let's go out into the world seeing people first before we see and perhaps judge them based on the disability or dislike that does not match our own view. This new perspective reminds me of the well-known song "What a Wonderful World" sang by Louis Armstrong. Did you know it is a political song? According to the BBC article, Smashed Hits: How political is What A Wonderful World?
"Its creators, producer Bob Thiele and songwriter George David Weiss, hoped that Armstrong's grandfatherly image would help convey the song's message - and the message was political. The single was released in 1968, a year in which America saw curfews as race riots spread from Newark and Detroit to over 100 cities. There were fears of a second civil war and the violence included attacks on Jewish shops."
Here are some of the lyrics:
What a wonderful world it would be if we all lived in this manner--seeing the love of humanity and recognizing the person first.
Take care. Be kind. See the person first.