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We do not think and talk about what we see; we see what we are able to think and talk about.

Edgar H. Schein

What do you think?

This learning requires you to read the passage below which appeared in "A journal of Disability Poetry and Literature" and then look at the questions in relation to the passage which are aimed at getting you to think about your attitude to disabled people.  Try to be honest, what have you thought about disabled people in the past?  Has this passage challenged that thinking?

If the acceptance of a disability identity is problematic for some with congenital disabilities like cerbral palsy, it is potentially even more difficult for a person with a disability acquired later in life. Unlike the person with CP who is not looking for a cure (to be fixed), someone with a spinal cord injury that suddenly finds themselves in a wheelchair or who has received a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis (MS) looks back to a former life, one they considered normal, one that was "really them." The ambivalence of accepting the new person they are is expressed wonderfully in Marke Kane's "Radio Interview."

"Her missionary voice beams from some national radio studio across inaccessible stars and blue-black space while I drive on in the coming dark, anxious to arrive home before my vision fades, before my leg brace constricts my calf, before leg spasms.


She crows— I have no MS symptoms and haven't for ten years — and credits rest, healthy meals, acupuncture, and reflexology with her symptom-free life. Why, she feels protected from that evil, eating fruit and whole grams and resting with her feet up on a cushion (sometimes she just HAS to stop and rest), while I grimace and regret the ice cream, rue the wine, lament those missed naps. No daily or weekly shots for her; steroids are hideous and the hope of stem cells? (Stem cells— uttered like a loathsome curse.) Well, she hopes research halts before anymore innocent lives are taken in the name of science.


I can envision her heeled shoes winking as her rose-tipped toes slip in before she is launched back home to ride Byron, her show horse. (The riding, she asserts, fights fatigue and stress.) Then I am yelling at the radio, pounding the steering wheel at that nail-driven-home voice so much like the roaring page, the bastard blues — I want to propel Byron through an unlatched gate, his tail a free flag in the wind, push that smiling voice down a flight of stone steps until the jeweled shoes fly, and punch my hand through her smug assumption that she knows exactly how to manage MS, never acknowledging that my MS might be a different animal all together.


Finally, lights on our cedar trees appear and disappear in the growing wind; I turn onto our gravel driveway, silence the car, clamber awkwardly out, stand supported by my quad cane and leg brace, and admit that I so desperately want, oh how I want, oh, oh, with my heart in my mouth, oh, how I want to be her."

Extract from Wordgathering: A Journal of Disability Poetry and Literature, Author Michael Northen.

Reflective Questions?

Question:  Why do people sometimes come across as snippy or angry when there appears to be no reason to be?

Question:  Have you ever thought that someone you know really ought to sort themself out?  Have you found yourself getting agitated with a disabled person, for example a deaf family member or relative, even made fun of them? Have you ever thought something like 'they brought this on themself', or 'it is Karma'?

Question:  How do you feel about disabled people?  Are some disabled people more easy to deal with than others?  If so why do you think that is?

Question:  Have you ever stopped to think what must be going through their mind as they try to navigate a world mostly  built for the non-disabled?  If not have a think now what those thoughts might be and how you would feel.

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