I Am Differently Abled, Not Disabled
When a loved one is diagnosed with a medical condition, there are many questions that emerge. What does this mean for their future? Will they cope in the real world? How will your life change after this revelation? How do you deal with someone who is different from others? The term 'disabled' is often associated with people diagnosed with different kinds of mental and physical conditions. The term isn't exactly incorrect - these conditions that often restrict normal functioning in social situations.But are we right in calling them disabled?
Disabled vs. differently abled
The first thing that comes to mind when labelling someone as 'disabled' is the action itself. People aren't and shouldn't be labelled as anything, least of all disabled. When someone is diagnosed with a condition (like autism), they aren't autistic, they HAVE autism. Who they are as a person is not impacted by a medical condition and it surely doesn't contribute to their identity. While the labelling aspect is important to some, it isn't to most others.
The term disabled has not been favoured in recent times with several alternatives cropping up. One of these is seeing more favour than others - 'differently abled'. This term is inclusive and offers an equal platform to those who fall under it.
What does it mean to be differently abled?
People with mental or physical conditions are differently abled because they possess a unique set of abilities and perspectives. Everybody has ability and everybody matters, it's all about acknowledging it. 'Differently abled' doesn't hide the fact that your loved one has been diagnosed with a condition, but continues to empower them despite it.
Oftentimes, differently abled people see what we can't, hear what we can't and think what we can't. This makes their ability different - not inferior, not superior - just different. The term differently abled recognises talent and value in everybody and treats them equally. While mental conditions like autism can affect certain everyday functions, it need not stop them from enjoying a fulfilling, enriched and loved life. Many differently people are known to flourish and rejoice in life with the right opportunity, support and love.
How can I help?
If you personally know someone with mental or physical conditions, the best way you can help is to provide them unconditional love, support and patience. Get in touch with experts at APD India to understand the conditions and how they can affect their life. Knowledge is the best way to help those around you. You can also help by spreading the word and sensitising people on the matters of mental conditions. Alternatively, you can also help substantially by volunteering as an individual or a group with NGOs like APD and making the lives of the differently abled easier and happier.
Several non profit groups in your area are relentlessly working to facilitate a better life for the differently abled and you can contribute your time, money or labor. Even the smallest donations or a few hours every week can improve hundreds of lives around you. Take action.
Disabled or Differently Abled? Toward a Deeper Recogition of the Dignity of the Disabled.
Msgr. Charles Pope • October 25, 2011
Allow me to begin with a parable. Every now and then I take a perfectly good paper clip and I untwist and reconfigure it for some purpose. Once I used untwisted paperclips to hang Christmas ornaments on the tree. Another time I untwisted and fashioned a paperclip into a hook to keep my file drawer from rolling open. Now if paperclips could see, or think and talk, they might be horrified and saddened to see a fellow paperclip so deformed. And perhaps I could try and explain that these “deformed” paperclips were actually not a disaster, they were quite useful and important to me in their “deformed” condition. But alas, the paperclips cannot understand this, they just “look” with sadness and horror on the deformed paperclips. After all how can you expect a paperclip to understand something other than clipping paper? They are just paperclips after all and can’t understand deeper things beyond the world they know, which is clipping paper.
I have often wondered if this isn’t something of the truth about us in our understanding of things such as disability, birth defects, and personal challenges of some of our fellow human family members. As we look upon the disabled, the handicapped, those who struggle with deformity, mental illness, profound and/or mild mental disability we are often moved to sadness and even horror. And we easily ask, “Why does God allow this?!” We quickly conclude that such people’s lives are unhappy or that they will never reach full potential.
And yet I wonder if we really know what we are talking about. Who of us can really say what our own purpose in God’s plan is, let alone anyone else’s? We are like paperclips in a drawer who know only one thing. Our minds are too small for us to ever understand the very special and significant role that even the most “impaired” in our world play. Perhaps in heaven we will realize what an indispensable and central role role they had in God’s plan and victory. Of all the paperclips in the drawer some of the most useful to me are the ones I twist and refashion.
A knowledge too high – I pray you will accept my humble example of a paperclip. I mean no disrespect to the human person in comparing us to paperclips. We are surely more precious and complicated and God does not glibly use us like paperclips. But my example must be humble to illustrate what is, for us, a knowledge too high to grasp: the knowledge of the dignity and essential purpose of every human being to God and his plan.
Our judgments in this matter cannot be much better than a paperclip in a drawer compared to God’s omniscient wisdom. If it is absurd for us to think a paperclip could understand our ways is it really much less absurd to think we can understand all God’s ways? And if we cannot understand his ways, why do we make judgments as to another person’s role, usefulness, beatitude or status?
We too easily look down on the poor, but scripture says we should look up to them and that God is especially close to the poor, the suffering, the brokenhearted and the humble. Scripture says he uses the lowly to humble the proud. And yet still we so easily look with pity on those we consider disadvantaged.
A Story – Over twenty years ago I worked for a year with the profoundly mentally disabled. They lay in beds and wheelchairs often with little muscle control. None of them could talk and only a few could engage in rudimentary communication. There was one man in his forties who had never emerged from the fetal position. He lay in a large crib his tiny, yet clearly adult body, curled up like a newborn babe. And on his face the most angelic smile that almost never diminished.
He had been baptized as an infant and to my knowledge could not have sinned. I looked with marvel each visit upon innocence and a beatific countenance. What an astonishing gift he was. And who knows, but God, why he was this way? But God DOES know and I think had very important reasons to permit this. There was something central and indispensable in this man’s existence. Some role only he could fill. Apparently I was not able to fill that role.
He was not disabled, he was differently abled, uniquely abled for something different than the ordinary. Looking upon him I had little doubt that he was directly in touch with God in a way that I never had been, for his radiant face infallibly conveyed that. With our human eyes we can be saddened even appalled. But we’ll understand it better by an by. One day, in the great by and by, we may well be surprised to learn that the most central and critical people in God’s plan were the most humble and often the most broken, and that we would never have made it without them.
This video depicts the paradox of disability that sometimes shines through to teach us that we do not see the whole picture. A child was born with significant defects but suddenly as he grew remarkable gifts showed forth. Just a little reminder from God, a glimpse of what God sees, that the disabled are to him differently and wonderfully abled. Meet Patrick Henry Hughes.
Filed in: Faith • Tags: disability, Faith & Current Events