Thursday, January 03, 2008

Mixed Ability in Place of DIS-Ability

The other night I was watching TV looking for someone in a wheelchair, some representation of my Social Group that was not being portrayed in an inspirational or stereotypical manner and I came across Season 2 (1960-61) Episode 42 “The Eye of the Beholder” on the TV Show "The Twilight Zone". I caught the end of the Episode. A woman’s face is bandaged heavily, she has just had surgery and the doctor and nurses are trying to prepare her for what she might see when the bandages come off and also the consequences of the surgery if not successful. In "Twilight Zone" Style you never see the Doctor or Nurse's face until the end. The following is the conversation between the Doctor and the female patient before he unwraps her bandages:

“Janet Tyler: Doctor? Doctor, may I walk outside? Please, may I? May I just go and sit in the garden? Just for a little while? Just, just to feel the air? Just to smell the flowers? Just, just to make believe I am normal? If I sit out there in the darkness, then the whole world is dark, and I'm more a part of it like that. Not just one grotesque, ugly woman with a bandage on her face, with a special darkness all her own. I want to belong. I want to be like everybody. Please, doctor. Please help me.
Dr. Bernardi: There are many others who share your misfortune. People who look much as you do. One of the alternatives, just in the event that this last treatment is not successful, is simply to allow you to move into a special area in which people of your kind have been congregated.
Janet Tyler: People of my kind congregated? You mean segregated! You mean imprisoned, don't you, Doctor? You're talking about a ghetto, aren't you? A ghetto designed for freaks!
Dr. Bernardi: Miss Tyler! Now, the state is not unsympathetic. Your presence here in this hospital is proof of that. It's doing all it can for you. But you're not being rational, Miss Tyler. Now you know you can't expect to live any kind of a life among normal people.
Janet Tyler: I could try. I could wear a mask or this bandage. I wouldn't bother anybody. I'd just go my own way. I'd get a job, any job. Who are you people anyway? What is this State? Who makes all these rules and conditions and statutes that people who are different have to stay away from the people who are normal? The State isn't God, Doctor.
Dr. Bernardi: Miss Tyler, please.
Janet Tyler: The State is not God! It hasn't the right to penalize somebody for an accident of birth! It hasn't the right to make ugliness a crime!
Dr. Bernardi: Miss Tyler! Miss Tyler, stop this immediately!
Janet Tyler: I feel the night out there. I feel the air. I can smell the flowers. Oh, please, please, take this off me. Please. Please take this off me. Please take this off me. Oh, please, take this off me! Take it off me! Take it off me! Help! Somebody help me! Help! No, no, no, no, let me go. Let me go. Please, please, let me go. Let me go, please. Oh, please. Please, let me go. Please, please, let me go.
Dr. Bernardi: Alright, then I will take the bandages off. Get the anesthetist.
Nurse: Yes Doctor.” 1/4/08.

I wanted to share that with you because of its message of what is Normal, What is Beautiful, What is Physically Pleasing. If we have the “right” appearance, or physical, emotional, or behavioral ability –let me stop what is right? What is normal? What is better? Stronger? And who defines this? “The International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health (ICF), produced by the World Health Organization, distinguishes between body functions (physiological or psychological, e.g. vision) and body structures (anatomical parts, e.g. the eye and related structures). Impairment in bodily structure or function is defined as involving an anomaly, defect, loss or other significant deviation from certain generally accepted population standards, which may fluctuate over time. Activity is defined as the execution of a task or action.” 1/4/08.

That last line interests me the most. I know many “DIS-Abled” people, men and women, who have more life in them and drive and succeed more than some ABLE-Bodied people, men and women I know. They just execute "the task or action" Differently using a Mixture of Ability.

If you glance around in a Mall or a Train Station and look carefully you will notice everyone is different from the color of our skin to our physical appearance. As we move in space and co-exist, we move differently with our different appearances and our different steps. As I exist in my own space in a crowded Mall or Train Station, I walk by a man or woman who works out and has great muscle tone and wonder: are they better off than I am physically? Are they more socially accepted because they fit some norm of physicality society has placed on us or we have allowed to be placed on us. I wonder why their Ability to move in Space is more accepted as the right way or the Able-Bodied way-the way to be considered normal. But what about the ones who move around us, whiz past us in chairs, on crutches, pass us by having beautiful conversations out loud or in their heads-poetry-the ones who see the world how it really is-the ones who ignore the petty and embrace and fight for meaning and change-The ones whose way of movement, this way we, who are not able-bodied, communicate and move our bodies in public- why couldn’t that be considered better, more graceful, beautiful, or aesthetically pleasing? Why for the most part are we stared at for our different physical, emotional, behavioral abilities as something that is less than and not equal to. Why don’t we get the sexual embrace in a crowded place from someone’s eye from across the way. What is happening that still prevents the DIS-abled from being Mixed in with everyone else? Why can’t the abilities of all be considered in one term-Mixed Ability. Then we are all accounted for. And there will be no more of this…well, she’s DIS-Abled…and you can hear the awes from the audience.

I can’t walk. But have someone in my life who can but they have a different emotional ability than I do. I have worked recently with students who can play football but their learning ability is different than some who can’t catch a ball. If we can slowly change this word DIS-Ability to Mixed Ability, then it relieves the weight place the person under to claw their way out. Once labeled it’s for life for some, and opportunities still neglect anyone labeled Handicapped or Disabled, and still to this day I hear Crippled. Some of this is plane lack of education and respect but we need to continue the dialogue in regards to changing this one term.

The terms and their definitions taken right from Wikipedia:

Handi-cap- “From Hand-in-cap; perhaps in reference to an old mode of setting a bargain by taking pieces of money from a cap. To encumber with a handicap in any contest; hence, in general, to place at disadvantage;…)

Abnormal-is a subjectively defined characteristic, assigned to those with rare or dysfunctional conditions. 3/10/07.

A cripple is a person or animal with a disability, particularly one who is unable to walk due to an injury or illness. The word was recorded as early as 950 AD, and generally came to be regarded as pejorative when used for people, in the United States, Britain and Canada during the 1960s. In other English-speaking countries, the term is still widely used without pejorative connotations. 1/4/08.

A disability is a condition or function judged to be significantly impaired relative to the usual standard of an individual of their group. The term is often used to refer to individual functioning, including physical impairment, sensory impairment, cognitive impairment, intellectual impairment, mental illness, and various types of chronic disease. This usage is associated with a medical model of disability. The human rights or social model focuses on functioning as an interaction between a person and their environment, highlighting the role of a society in labelling, causing or maintaining disability within that society, including through attitudes or accessibility favoring the majority. Disabilities may come to people during their life or people may be born disabled. 1/4/08.

I DID NOT invent the term Mixed Ability. I first heard it used among danacers at The Ohio State University. I added Mixed Ability below to the Wikipedia Site. Please log on and edit or add your own resources:

Mixed Ability is a new term to be used in replace of: disabled, handicapped, abnormal, and crippled. Mixed Ability refers to any person who has a different or Mixed physical Ability. It can also refer to anyone who has a different emotional or learning ability. Words like disabled, crippled, and handicapped have negative connotations throughout history. Mixed Ability contemporizes the label placed on those who have a different or medically documented physical or mental ability and attempts to relieve any social or conversational stigma.
The objective in changing the term is to eliminate stereotypes that exist currently in any society in regards to those with a Mixed Ability. 1/4/08
Retrieved from ""

There is also the question do we want to say that everyone has a Mixed Ability, Able-Bodied or not, because theoretically all of our Abilities are Mixed or do we want to throw away DIS-Ability and use Mixed Ability in its place solely for our Social group.

One other thought: When technology catches up and gives all those men and women who don’t have the muscle control to speak on their own the ability to type out their thoughts, what would happen then if their thoughts are brilliant, code-breaking, peacekeeping, money-making thoughts, will these people who were DIS-abled will they now be superior and re-define Ability via New technology? For now how do we begin the re-definition of Social Group Label in order to change our Social Groups Social Perception.

It’s two words, will it have an impact? I don’t know. What I do know is that anytime someone says DIS-Abled to me or about me I correct them.


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