How can the collective voice of the disabled break down society’s wall of stereotypes? Erin Kelly offers a few thoughts.
Author and professor William Ralph Inge once said:
“The aim of education is the knowledge—not of facts, but of values.”
At first glance, the words that make up this quote look as simple as they sound. It may seem like they don’t any further explanation than what’s offered, no hidden veils to lift to uncover a deeper meaning. It would seem as if Inge’s words are referring to the education written on a chalkboard—rather than the education that the outside world can teach a hungry, humble soul.
It’s easy to look at these words as just that—words. It’s even easier to think they’re so simple that they go in one ear and out the other, but that’s the problem.
Society often teaches us to “hear” what others are saying, and to “look” at what’s being done in the world. This is achieved largely by running bold-faced headlines in newspapers and putting the spotlight on reporters who anchor the nightly news. That’s their job and they should be respected for their professionalism. However, what and how much is being said about the act of listening and observing, instead of just hearing and looking at someone or something?
Who’s teaching mankind to truly listen and observe? By the same token, who gets the worst of all the belittlement and insults we often throw at each other? Some may say people of color are the biggest target. Others might claim it’s those with differing religious beliefs or skin color—but what about those with disabilities?
When mankind begins to dismiss or belittle what it doesn’t understand, such as the topic of disability, it creates a breeding ground for stereotypes. It’s even worse when man becomes the one who’s teaching that this is acceptable in any way, shape or form.
It can be argued that the duties of education and leadership are granted to those in power by default, but the real responsibility falls on the shoulders of the common man. It can also be said that disability is perhaps the biggest, most apparent target for stereotypes. By opening up an honest dialogue about it, however, we can take towards education a population of one or one million. With it comes the discovery of personal ideals and values—not to mention a sense of responsibility to break the chain of stereotypes created by society, or at least try to.
It’s easy to hear the words and thoughts of others, and simply write it off as whatever you believe them to be. It’s easy to watch a news report and almost automatically do the same—but when we throw talk of disability into the mix, it completely changes the landscape of conversation,
It’s time we listen truly to the voice of the disabled. It’s time we not only let them in on the conversation, but allow to lead it. It’s time to stop judging what we only see on the surface—because maybe, just maybe, the common man isn’t the only one with all the answers.
Photo Credit: World Bank Photo Collection/Flickr