Just what counts as having a disability these days anyway?


Could having health conditions such as arthritis, a ‘bad back’ or having undergone any form of reconstructive surgery such as hip or knee replacement, or having bones repaired with the use of rods and pins, now qualify a person as being disabled, even after the wounds have healed, the pain reduced or full functioning has returned?

In the minds of some the answer to this question is a resounding yes. But I’m far from convinced this should be so.

Over the last few decades the ways in which we discuss ‘disability’ has changed greatly. As a consequence of this two major changes have occurred.

Firstly, many conditions that were previously understood purely as health conditions, have now been labelled disabling conditions.

Secondly, this shift in emphasis towards labelling health conditions as disabling has led to greater levels of awareness, access, understanding and acceptance for some forms of disabilities but not others.

So I question whether or not, in the rush to create awareness and embrace or champion the rights of those with disabilities, a few too many of the hard and inviolable truths of living life with non physical disabilities have been all too quickly wallpapered over.

Instead of fixing the hardships that so many face, these new redefinitions of what is and is not a disability, have merely succeeded in replacing the decor of society by creating new and more palatable concepts of what a disability is or ought to be considered to be.

With the concept of disability once again being viewed through the lens of a physical condition that can be medically helped or cured, (such as ‘bad backs’, pinned arms and legs, new hips and knees, electronic ears), or at the very least, successfully catered for with the introduction of technology, wheel chair ramps, rails, traffic lights that beep and specialized services for the hard of hearing, more and more people who experience other forms of disability are becoming further marginalized.

If we fall for the concept that all it takes for a person to be considered disabled is the existence of any physical condition, either temporary or permanent, that’s viewed as disabling in any way, including old age, then we may also fall back into the dark days of ignoring all those who experience the so-called ‘invisible’ disabilities (intellectual or cognitive delays or differences, autism).

People with intellectual disabilities or cognitive differences may once again find themselves being pushed further and further back down the conga line of help, awareness and support.

Thereby undoing decades of activism.

It seems to me that by including the term ‘disabling’ to conditions which were previously recognized as ‘health conditions’, ‘illnesses’ or ‘age related conditions’, the powers that be are once again re-framing disability as a purely physical experience/condition that can only be medically understood and cured.

And we all know how well defining disability by applying a purely medical paradigm to it worked out last time.

“The steady accumulation of a thousand slights”…….. Nelson Mandela


“I had no epiphany, no singular revelation, no moment of truth, but a steady accumulation of a thousand slights, a thousand indignities and a thousand unremembered moments produced in me an anger, a rebelliousness, a desire to fight the system that imprisoned my people. There was no particular day on which I said, Henceforth I will devote myself to the liberation of my people; instead, I simply found myself doing so, and could not do otherwise.”
Nelson Mandela, Long Walk to Freedom 


Simple Truth or Twisted Logic?


This supposedly simple truth is one that I’m not at all sure I agree with.

No matter how logical statements like these first appear to be, there’s always something about them that pulls at that questioning part inside of me.

The part that makes me wonder whether or not we should accept statements like these too easily, and if we do accept them, what is it exactly that we are buying into when we do?

Saying that one shouldn’t expect a lion not to eat a person just because a person wouldn’t eat a lion, which is indeed a true statement, is one thing, but to then use this truth as a justification for saying that we shouldn’t expect the world, (which really means the people in it as the world itself is an inanimate object), to treat us fairly just because we treat others fairly, is another issue entirely.

After all, people are not lions….. and now that we’ve established that fact……

Just why is it again that we’re not to expect others to treat us fairly if we do the same to them?

Oh that’s right, it’s because being preyed upon, ripped off, taken advantage of, lied too, stolen from, beaten up or maimed in some way by others in life, is supposedly all part of the natural order of things, therefore we should just accept and expect it.

Well it may be the natural order of things for lion’s to behave in this way, but once again, people are not lions and I’m still far from convinced that behaving like a wild animal, in any way, should constitute what’s considered to be the natural order of behavior for human beings.

I don’t truly think that many people would, upon rational reflection, agree to the statement that we should all expect to be preyed upon by others.

Nor accept the idea that being nice to others automatically  means that we deserve to become the victims of human predators.

Especially considering that the validation of such ideas are based on little more than the observation that lions in the wild, hunt to survive.

Or perhaps I’m just being foolish.

What do you think?


When the benefits of the many outweigh the good of the few….


These days, those who are considered the most successful in life, are also those who hold the dual abilities of being able to commit the most atrocious of actions whilst  instantly providing themselves with a sense of justification for doing so.

If  you look at those who have made it to the top of their fields, regardless of whether or not those fields are considered prestigious or dubious in nature,  very few of them, if any, could honestly claim to have never once used, abused or in any other way taken advantage of another, in order to get there.

Given that our society consistently tells us that it’s okay to lie, cheat or steal the pants off a business competitor if it better suits our own purposes to do so, it’s little wonder that this same message has begun to transfer over into everyday life.

Where often all it takes to make it okay to rip off strangers, friends, or even family, is the ability to convince yourself that your needs outweigh the needs of those you are taking advantage.

We’ve all heard of the stories of con men that convince their own elderly parents, without any remorse what so ever, to invest in their bogus business schemes, for no reason other than to enable them to get their hands on the family’s money sooner, rather later.

Or the drug addicts who think nothing of stealing from their friends, family or complete strangers in order to feed a habit which also provides them with a built-in sense of justification in that their “immediate needs” are more important than the needs of whomever they’re stealing from.

The saying that “all is fair in love and war” appears to have become the justification for almost any form of malevolent behaviour that one can think of.

This used to be a saying that was predominantly  applied to the dubious behaviours of those in the business world.

Where many of those in positions of power have been known to do things such as releasing harmful products, most notably pharmaceuticals, onto the worldwide market , in the belief that their products potential to cause harm were vastly outweighed by their products potential to create profits.

In fact if we look back at the history of medical developments, the vast majority of the work that has been carried out in order to create our current day medical break throughs, have been premised on the justification that the potential benefits of the many out weigh the suffering of the few, (upon whom early medical experiments were conducted on).

This type of moral trade-off, or justification, is also the moral device that provides many with the ability to experiment on animals.

So as a breed of beings we do indeed seem to have a propensity for believing that our actions, no matter how morally horrific they may be, are still somehow okay if they can be viewed as justifiable in any way, shape of misbegotten form.

This leads me to wonder just how potent a device for excusing bad behaviour justification has become in our own lives.

For instance, if you found a wallet in the street  with a few hundred dollars in it two days before Christmas, would you hand it in to the police, or would you choose instead to believe that the universe had provided you with an unexpected means of being able to afford those extra little Christmas treats you’ve been longing to buy for those you love?

Or what if your family were severely financially struggling at the time?

What if keeping the wallet meant the difference between you family having power and heat on Christmas day or not?

Would keeping the wallet under those circumstances be justifiable?

Dilemmas like this, on a small-scale, show just how untenable the concept of justification can become as a mode for defining the rightness or wrongness of our actions.

We all know that handing the wallet in, under most conventional circumstances, would be considered the morally right thing to do…. But….. My question is this…….

‘Can the keeping of the wallet any longer be viewed as the only morally right thing to do if one can justify doing otherwise?’

And if all it takes is a sense of justification to overthrow those once clear lines of delineation between right and wrong actions, then how much longer will it be before we lose all concept of a collective sense of right and wrong all together?

What do you do about disability discrimination when it happens within a family context?


Step-Mother kicks autistic step son.

During the school holidays, my ex-husband and his new wife took my boys on a “family” holiday to Queensland.

While both of my sons were very excited about the prospect of visiting theme parks like Movie World, Dream World and Wet and Wild, my 17-year-old son, who has Autism, also expressed his fears that he may not be able to cope with the crowds and the noise he knew that he’d have to confront in order to join in the fun.

Instead of focusing on the negatives I tried to encourage my son to view his holiday as a way to practice his social skills in a new and perhaps a more challenging environment.

He took to this idea with great gusto and went into a kind of ‘social skills’ overdrive, taking any and all opportunities that presented themselves to try and talk to workers in every shop we went into.

He told the ladies at the chemists that they had beautiful hair and complimented each and every check out assistant in our supermarket by telling them they were either ‘fast’ or ‘good’ at their jobs.

For each positive comment he gave he received both kind words and supportive smiles in return.

Buoyed by his success, his fears surrounding his ability to cope with the crowds and the noise of the theme parks gradually lessened.

So off he went on his holiday all smiles and happiness.

Then home he came from his holiday,  all  grumpy and with his nerves worn down to the bone.

At first I’d thought that his mood may have been a natural consequence of having been so over stimulated whilst away.

But then I noticed that he’d stopped trying to hold conversations with our local check out assistants like he normally would.

Instead he’d begun reverting back to looking down at the ground and saying nothing when spoken too by the same sales assistants he’d previously taken such delight in communicating with.

After this pattern of behaviour had occurred a few more times I asked him why he didn’t want to talk to anyone.

He put his head down and muttered, “I don’t want to embarrass you.”

“You wouldn’t be embarrassing me. I love it when you chat to people. You know that.” I told him.

Still looking down at his hands, big wet tears began to crawl down on his face.

“What is wrong buddy? Did something happen on holiday to make you feel bad?”

He began nodding his head sadly.

“Do you want to tell me about it?” I asked him.

“No…. it will make you sad or angry and I don’t want you to be angry at me too.”  He replied.

“Why would it make me angry at you?”

“Because it made dad’s wife angry at me.”

“What? Why did she get angry at you?”

“I don’t know but she kicked me and told me to shut up” he said sadly.

Then he added that she’d told him he was an embarrassment to her and to keep his mouth shut when they went out.

So what had my darling son done to make his “step mother” react so horribly toward him?

Well after much patience the story finally tumbled out.

It turned out that she’d taken him into a souvenir shop at Movie World and excited to try out his social skills in a new environment, as we’d discussed, he’d  said to the woman behind the counter;

“Your job looks easy. I think I’d like to have your job”.

Upon which his step mother had kicked him in the back of the leg and told him to shut up.

Once outside of the store she’d ranted at him, telling him that was an embarrassment to her and that he should keep his mouth shut in future because he’d made the lady in the shop feel bad.

To me, the behaviour that my son’s step mother displayed toward him is the only behaviour that anyone should feel embarrassed about.

In one fell swoop she’s taken my sons hard-earned social confidence and tossed it away without a second thought.

Why couldn’t she have politely explained to the lady in the shop that her step son was practicing his social skills?

Would it really have been that hard for her to have shown him some support or to have helped him turn a small social blunder/misunderstanding into a  light-hearted event by saying something as simple as “oh yes I’d love to work here too. It looks like fun.”

As far as I’m concerned, kicking a young man with Autism for trying to practice his social skills in an unfamiliar environment is an entirely inappropriate and bullying response.

Let alone telling him to ‘shut up’ and then calling him an ‘embarrassment to her’.

I’d seriously love to let her know just how I feel about her  bad behaviour, but unlike her, I have the capacity to put my sons needs above and beyond my own desires, so I’ll keep the promise that I made to him to not say anything, as he doesn’t want  to make her  angry at him again.

How do you handle acts of blatant discrimination like this when they’re being carried out by so-called ‘family members’?