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Disability Discrimination Equals A Lack Of Respond Ability

Updated on September 4, 2010

Disability Discrimination - It Is In Our Hands

As a society we have come a long way in the resources and equipment that are available to persons with disabilities but it is questionable whether our change in attitude towards those among us who are disabled has kept pace with the technology. While it is true that disabled people in the 21st century have greater access to stores, parking, restaurants as well as hotel and motel accommodations it is questionable whether their access to their fellow man has advanced at the same rate. There is still an alarming lack of public awareness about disabled people. That lack appears to stem from people seeing the disability rather than seeing a person who has a disability.

Disability discrimination does still exist. Despite the laws protecting disabled people from discrimination there are many covert means by which the discrimination is still visited on disabled people in spite of all the advancements that have been made.

The term 'Disability Benefits' is an oxymoron. Those among us that have a 'disability' deserve the same regard, respect and consideration as those who are able bodied. Ignorant attitudes and trite platitudes just don't cut it. A small, subtle shift wherein able bodied people cease to focus on the disability and instead focus on the person who happens to have a disability could go along way to bringing about much needed changes.

My first memory of my grandmother was seeing her in a hospital in Victoria, B.C. I was three years old and had flown with my mother from Nelson, B.C. to be with my grandmother who had recently undergone an operation to have her left leg amputated. I hold only two clear pictures of that time, one was looking out the window of the plane and in looking down at the fluffy white clouds and up at the clear blue sky I asked my mother, "Where is God?" I do not recall her reply. The second image I have is one of my grandmother lying in a hospital bed with her white hair flowing out on an equally white pillow as her face attempted a weak, toothless smile at the sight of us. The next time I saw her I was five and she was in a wheelchair. She had come to stay with us in our new home in Prince George, B.C. It was from that point on that I was to get a deep appreciation for the challenges faced by a disabled person living in world entirely geared for the able bodied.  The year was 1955.

In that same year a young girl from Bishop, California was a gold medal contender for the 1956 Winter Olympics in slalom.  While skiing in the Snow Cup in Alta, Utah the nineteen year old Jill Kinmont suffered a back injury when she hit a tree.  The accident left her confined to a wheelchair for the rest of her life.  After over a year in rehabilitation Jill went on to obtain a degree at UCLA in Rehabilitation Processes.  Later she received her teaching credentials from the University of Washington.  Jill's first attempts at seeking employment as a teacher in her hometown of Bishop met with not protest but down right refusal to hire a "cripple".  She persisted and in 1975 she began teaching at the school which now bears her name where she remained until she retired in 1996.  Two movies about Jill Kinmont, now Jill Kinmont Boothe were made.  The first one, The Other Side Of The Mountain was released in 1975.  I attended the movie with a girlfriend and when we got in the car afterward to drive home I put my head down on the steering wheel and cried for over an hour.  My friend did the same.  The two movies did much to raise awareness of the challenges faced by those challenged with a disability.

"Speak tenderly to them. Let there be kindness in your face, in your eyes, in your smile, in the warmth of your greeting. Always have a cheerful smile. Don't only give your care, but give your heart as well" - Mother Teresa

By whatever means one goes from being able bodied to disabled the result is life shattering. The attitudes and platitudes presented from those of us who are not effected by the disability either through experiencing it ourselves or through the experience of a loved one can only be described as a total lack of response ability. I recall one incident in particular where my mother and grandmother had gone out shopping. It was wintertime and my mother was unable to push my grandmother's wheelchair so she pulled it. Tipping the chair back to get it up over a curb my mother's feet slipped in the wet snow and down she went with the wheelchair and my grandmother on top of her. They both burst out laughing as passersby on the sidewalk either ignored them entirely or walked around them to cross the street. They both lay on their backs for quite some time before an employee from the store they were trying to get to noticed them and came to their rescue. That year was 1959.

"Joy is a net of love by which you can catch souls" - Mother Teresa

The late spring of 1986 found me at a Standardbred Racetrack in Cloverdale, B.C. with a group of parents and children that I had never met before. I was there to assist them in fund raising for Children With Cerebral Palsy. The children ranged in age from eight years old to young adults in their early twenties, all were in wheelchairs. Everyone of them was excited and smiling and happy to be contributing to their own cause. That is they were until the streams of people entering the grand stands strode past them as though they did not even exist. As more and more people with unseeing eyes passed by the youngsters their high spirits ebbed. One of them looked at me and with tears in his eyes said, "It's always like this." I promptly grabbed the handles of the young man's wheelchair, said "We'll see what we can do about that" and raced towards a race enthusiast. Positioning the wheelchair so that the fellow had no choice but to stop I said, "This young man has something to ask you." It worked, money went into the tin and we were off in a heartbeat to cut our next victim off at the pass. Other adults saw what we were doing and accomplishing and soon there were twenty some odd wheelchairs racing about the entrance to the race track like bumper cars gone mad. The children were laughing, the parents were laughing and the donors were laughing. People began to stop voluntarily just to take part in the fun as they made their much appreciated donation.   I later found out that it was the most successful fundraiser they had ever had.

"Kind words can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes are truly endless." -  Mother Teresa

In the time between my grandmother's leg amputation and present time there have been others who have pioneered the way in raising the public's awareness of the needs of the disabled. In Canada we have the National Terry Fox Run each year to raise money for cancer and to pay homage to a young teenage boy who, having lost a leg to cancer began running across Canada on one good leg and a prosthetic leg to raise both awareness and money. His journey was cut short when the cancer having returned took his life before he could accomplish his goal. Rick Hansen, Canada's "Man In Motion" covered the world in his wheelchair. Christopher Reeves has come and gone from the United States where after his fall from a horse became a champion for the cause of the disabled all over the world. There are many others and there will be more but all their efforts in increasing our knowledge and awareness will be for naught if our attitudes do not keep pace.

If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other. - Mother Teresa

A few months ago I read a letter to the editor of our local newspaper wherein the writer was complaining about "all those big cars that disabled people drive" taking up too much room in the local mall parking lot. It was disconcerting to me that someone in this day and age with all the information available to us could somehow remain so dismally ignorant. I challenge anyone to swing two useless legs out of a compact vehicle while wrestling with a wheelchair.

When I was a little girl children with disabilities were sent to 'homes' that were not homes. They were kept "out of sight and out of mind". Today people with disabilities predominantly live in their own homes, with their families but even now, all too often when they are out in public, they are still not seen and we still do not keep their best interests in mind.

Throughout many countries in today world young men and women are and will be returning to their native lands suffering from injuries sustained in combat that have left them disabled. They went where they did because we asked them to, if not directly then by our silence and they deserve our full presence and our full respect whenever we have the opportunity to interact with them. They and all disabled people young and old alike deserve to be both seen and heard. If we cannot give them this then only the mechanics of the circumstances of the disabled have changed, the mechanics and nothing else. Having better technology does not automatically make us better human beings. It up to each and everyone of us to take responsibility for our ability to respond.

Loneliness and the feeling of being unwanted is the most terrible poverty.
-Mother Teresa


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    • HandControls profile image

      HandControls 6 years ago from Shenzhen, China

      Great hub, I'm just glad that the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendment of 2008 was signed into law by George W Bush (probably one of the very few things he did right) to renew the eroded ADA 1990 act.

    • raisingme profile image

      raisingme 6 years ago from Fraser Valley, British Columbia

      My head is spinning reading your account (and I know beyond a doubt it is the "Readers' Digest" version) of what happened to you in our "enlightened" western society. I cannot conceive that a person with genuine "brain damage" would be capable of giving such a well written summary or be cognizant of the fact that they have been woefully (to understate it) wronged. Personally I would order my files through the Freedom of Information Act and if I was barred from doing so due to my "disability" then I would have a lawyer get hold of them on my behalf and then I would talk to the press until I deafened them all in both ears! My cousin had epilepsy (she passed away a couple of years ago) and she married and had a beautiful daughter. One of my best friends growing up had "downs syndrome", she was put in an institution but came home from holidays and she was one of the great delights of my childhood. Her name was Kenna and she was love on two legs. That was in the late fifties and early sixties.

      I cannot put right what happened to you but as a member of the society that acted out of inexcusable ignorance I am deeply, deeply sorry.

      The measure of a society is how it treats its children and it's weakest members. We fall horribly short of the mark (in archery it is called "a sin" to miss the mark) of being able to brag, like our Southern neighbours, that we are the greatest nation on earth. We have a long way to go, as do they before we can make such a boast.

      Make your story known - knowledge is power and the only way we are going to wake up is to be hit upside the head, and hard, with stories such as your own. It is definitely time that we, as a people, pulled our heads out of you know where!!!!

    • profile image

      Matthew 6 years ago

      Thanks for the article, and especially looking back at the past. I was diagnosed with Epilepsy in 1970 and immediately removed from school (I was in Grade 5) for the safety of others, and plus the School Board claimed this is a school for Normal kids. Instead, since Epileptic Seizures take place in the brain, I was sent to a school for people with brain disorders, which most people back then called mental retardation. First thing they did was have me sexually fixed! No excuses, as it was mandatory, and being a kid, they didn't need my consent. Just a signature from my parents to do whatever's necessary! When our justice system allowed people with disabilities into a normal school, it sounded okay, but really it wasn't. I was allowed in school, but not allowed in the same classes as "Normal" kids. Instead, there was a small classroom for people of my kind, and there were no real academic courses for us. When other kids of my age graduated, I was given a "modified" certificate saying I "attended" high school. Hoping to get a job and an apartment, I got a slap in the face when finding out I've been classed Unemployable for Public Safety, with an official letter from the BC Government stating "The Safety of Thousands is More Important than the Satisfactions of Just One". Instead, I was put on Disability Income, and placed in a Home for the Handicapped on the outskirts of town, out of everyone's way. In there, I got sexually molested by four Gay Caregivers who loved young men, as i was referred to as "Fresh Meat", and nothing was done about it. I called the Police but nobody was going to believe someone with a Brain Disorder! So the abuse continued and my phoning rights were taken away. My Parents could see the damage done to me, but since they didn't actually see the abuse take place, the Police simply said "No Witness, No Case". It angers me how if it happens to a woman, the Police instantly arrest the accused, and take the woman to the hospital for a Rape kit to get evidence, and there's Rape Crisis Services out there to help Women, but nothing for Men! To me, that in itself is discrimination! When i got out of that Care Home, I found a woman who also has Epilepsy and we dated for about 2 years. My parents and her parents got along really well, and when I asked her to marry me, everyone was there! But our BC Government stepped in forbidding it, claiming anyone with a brain disorder cannot legally give consent, therefore my dating her was seen as a crime, and I was ordered to take the sex Offender Program to learn why it's wrong. I'm not a registered sex offender, but that's the only place they could think of to send me. All in all, I'm not allowed to have kids,'get a job, drive a car, and now not allowed to get married! All because i have a disability and our BC Government claims they're doing what they feel is best???

    • profile image

      wheelinallover 7 years ago

      raisingme did you figure out that I replied to two of your posts? My wife, the one in the wheelchair passed in 1999. My new wife (remarried in 2002) never treated me like I had wheels instead of legs. For her I was housekeeper and nanny to her young child. Her older children treated me like I could and should do everything and I thought slavery had been outlawed. For the most part I feel my disablement ended 6 months after my last wife and I split up. My memory returned after months of terrible headaches, and I lived by myself for the first time in 15 years. I no longer live alone but now its my choice. My biggest gain has been not paying someone to do the things I no longer can for myself.

    • raisingme profile image

      raisingme 7 years ago from Fraser Valley, British Columbia

      And the world is a better place for having you and your beloved wife in it! Empathy is a powerful spiritual attribute and one that too many have turned away from. Bless you both - not many people get that disability benefit is an oxymoron!

    • wheelinallover profile image

      Dennis Thorgesen 7 years ago from Central United States

      From someone who has lived both sides of this coin, you covered it very well. I honestly don't know if I would have survived my "fall from grace" if I had not seen how the other side lived before. I never considered myself prejudiced before the accident which put me in a wheelchair but now I know I am. I am prejudiced against the people who can't treat me as I treated everyone I knew before my accident. Which by the way, was with respect. I married the love of my life who had been in a wheelchair since she was 8, and had been treated badly by most of the people in her life outside her family. This was years before my own accident.

    • raisingme profile image

      raisingme 7 years ago from Fraser Valley, British Columbia

      Thank you so very much! I will come back often to read this comment - I cherish it.

    • stanwshura profile image

      stanwshura 7 years ago

      LOVE this hub - bless you for writing it! Your tone is really cool, too - your message intertwined with the levity of the humanity you speak for, and the wise compassion of a woman, surely bound for sainthood upon her (please please) very distant passing into the ethereal. Love your choice of her words - and yours. Consider me a fan. :)

    • raisingme profile image

      raisingme 7 years ago from Fraser Valley, British Columbia

      Thank you Chloe.

    • profile image

      ChloeTaylorBrown 7 years ago


      I also love how you weave your personal experiences with that of your country mates as well as quotes from Mother Teresa, who happens to be one of my favorite Saints. In fact, one of her poems from, "Mother Teresa: In My Own Words" is in the beginning of my book that I just referred to yesterday:). Here's the poem, if I may...


      Life is an opportunity, benefit from it.

      Life is a beauty, admire it.

      Life is a dream, realize it.

      Life is a challenge, meet it.

      Life is a duty, complete it.

      Life is a game, play it.

      Life is a promise, fulfill it.

      Life is sorrow, overcome it.

      Life is a song, sing it.

      Life is a struggle, accept it.

      Life is a tragedy, confront it.

      Life is an adventure, dare it.

      Life is luck, make it.

      Life is life, fight for it!"

      --Mother Teresa

      For me, Mother Teresa's message is the same as your message in this hub... it is more life to all. It is LIFE!

    • raisingme profile image

      raisingme 7 years ago from Fraser Valley, British Columbia

      Yes it is sad and yes they do deserve to be treated with the same respect and consideration any sane person would expect and demand to be treated with. There is a facebook page for Jill Kinmont - she's still going strong. She is one of my heroes!

    • Cari Jean profile image

      Cari Jean 7 years ago from Bismarck, ND

      Another great hub that raises awareness for the disabled community. It is sad that even still today they are still being discriminated against and not being seen by some as whole persons. They deserve to be treated with respect just like the rest of us.

    • raisingme profile image

      raisingme 7 years ago from Fraser Valley, British Columbia

      Thank you Ethel.

    • ethel smith profile image

      Eileen Kersey 7 years ago from Kingston-Upon-Hull

      That is a truly awesome Hub. The Mother Theresa quotes and personal experiences add weight to it

    • raisingme profile image

      raisingme 7 years ago from Fraser Valley, British Columbia

      Thank you. It could be that the fear is brought about by focusing on that difference, the disability, rather than focusing on the person....who just happens to have a disability.

    • CASE1WORKER profile image

      CASE1WORKER 7 years ago from UNITED KINGDOM

      very good article expressing the feelings that many of us feel- maybe people are afraid of things that are different

    • raisingme profile image

      raisingme 7 years ago from Fraser Valley, British Columbia

      The pebble under my saddle that really irks me is that they have to "FIGHT" for support. My nephew as Aspergers and there was supports in place for him as a child but there is nothing for him as an adult. Even I get treated differently when I am out and about on my own than I do when I am out with my disabled husband. People cannot confront it, but it could just as easily be them or one of their children. It took me five years of communicating, communicating, communicating before I was able to get some decent and effective support systems in place for my husband. Many times I have found that it is not so much that the supports are not available but that the links and bridges to those supports are not in place. Your son Patrick is a link to the future so that others who follow do not have to fight so hard as he just as Jill Kinmont and others have been for the generations who followed them. In 1963 Jill had to fight to get into the University of Washington to get her teaching credentials. She wasn't able to get a teaching job until 1975 and she had to fight for that too. Now the school is named after her.

    • akirchner profile image

      Audrey Kirchner 7 years ago from Washington

      We need all the advocates we can get in this world! That is where my son Patrick is now - trying to get his advocates lined up for services - other than his mom and dad!

      It is sad how many disabled people there are and the various and sundry reasons of how they got that way is a little amazing and a little sad as well. I am thankful that our son did have such good support growing up and that I think has made him believe he can do anything. The unfortunate part of that though is that the older you get as a disabled person, the harder life seems to become so they do need all the support we can give them. I always say - walk a mile in their shoes and see how you would do. Everything is all relative!

    • raisingme profile image

      raisingme 7 years ago from Fraser Valley, British Columbia

      Okay, but if you comment on my Electric Toothbrush Hub that is coming up I am coming over there and hunting you down because it would mean you have holed up in that house wwwwaaayyytttooollllonnnggg!

    • SomewayOuttaHere profile image

      SomewayOuttaHere 7 years ago from TheGreatGigInTheSky

      yup! that's me...I was reading some hubs and I have my email opened and 3 of your hubs came of course I was ready for more. And I thought - wow! she's busy! she must have something to say! me I write one every couple of weeks.

      Love the bird btw (the other hub)!

    • raisingme profile image

      raisingme 7 years ago from Fraser Valley, British Columbia

      Are you the fastest reader in the west or what. I published that, took my husband's dinner out of the oven, set it on the table, came back to the computer and from SomewayOuttaHere there you was! Glad it made you laugh. And yes, Terry Fox moved our nation in away that no one had ever done before and no one has done since. The Being that we knew as Terry Fox is larger than life itself!

    • SomewayOuttaHere profile image

      SomewayOuttaHere 7 years ago from TheGreatGigInTheSky

      ..what an advocate you are! great hub...I went to see the Terry Fox statue in N. Ontario about 5 years ago...I cried; it was pretty powerful! His parents must have been so proud of him.

      you made me laugh - about asking your mom where god was when you were flying to Victoria! I understand why that question would have come to mind - flying over the Rockies is pretty awesome!