Over the next few weeks it will, of course, be impossible to ignore the athletes participating in the Paralympics, but will that affect public attitudes to disability more generally? Why can able-bodied people be so awkward with others who happen to be differently able?Because of articles like this one continually pointing out how different they are, or urging us to treat them differently, giving them different rights under the law, urging us to use different language to avoid offending them..?
It’s not rocket science…
In an experiment in which able-bodied people were asked to sit next to a disabled person, half were first allowed to stare at the disabled person through a two-way mirror and half were not. All were then measured how closely they sat next to the disabled person. They found that those who were allowed to stare sat closer than those who were introduced without first having had that opportunity.Interesting experiment. I wonder if it was ever run with just able-bodied people.
Because I suspect it shows nothing more than the normal British reserve!
There is a conflict of what the able-bodied think they ought to feel about disabled people and the actual emotions experienced. For example, we want to follow our curiosity and stare and we also want to adhere to the social norm of not staring.Well, indeed! You could replace ‘disabled person’ in that experiment with ‘person covered in tattoos’ or ‘person with bright scarlet hair’ and get the same result, I’ll be bound.
She does have one very, very good point, though:
Yet an unquestioning embrace of political correctness can mean we go too far and bracket all the differently able people together. A special needs teacher who works with children with profound and multiple learning disabilities told me they have such severe learning and physical difficulties that they will never be able to say "mummy" or show they recognise who mummy is. Yet, she must prepare lesson plans and teach subjects such as geography, French and maths because it is the children's right, according to the Declaration of the Rights of Children, to have those lessons, even though it doesn't appear possible that they could gain from them. We can be so keen not to discriminate that we can be in denial of difference.Well, quite.
How do we strike a happy balance, though?