Weekly Geeks #4 – Social Awareness

Choose a political or social issue that matters to you. Find several books addressing that issue; they don’t have to books you’ve read, just books you might like to read. Using images (of the book covers or whatever you feel illustrates your topic) present these books in your blog.

I took my time selecting my subject for this week’s theme…Animal cruelty? Overpopulation? Child abuse and our dismal judicial system in dealing with it? There are so many issues I feel passionate about. But the one that cuts directly to my heart…the one which I have centered my professional life around…is discrimination against the disabled.

As a physical therapist, I have seen this discrimination time and time again. It comes from the medical field itself such as when a child with profound mental retardation is denied standard medical care because their life is not given the same value as a “normal” child; it comes from neighbors who protest against a group home for adults with developmental delay; it comes from the media when they portray someone with mental retardation as “dangerous” or “scary”; it comes from individuals who protest against the Americans With Disabilities Act because it is “too costly” or too difficult to comply with…Discrimination against those with disability can be direct or subtle, it has many faces – young and old. And it victimizes some of the most vulnerable members of our society.

I am often asked to describe my profession as a physical therapist. I used to say: “It is a lot like being a teacher because I am always teaching.” But these days, in my role as consultant for individuals with developmental delay and working at a therapeutic horseback riding program for children and adults with disability – I am more apt to describe my position as an advocate…going to bat for my patients to get funding for equipment or services, and speaking our for their medical needs in a system which is often more concerned with the bottom line than with providing the best possible care. Sometimes it is exhausting – but it is always rewarding when I am able to beat back discrimination, educate the ignorant or watch someone take another step toward independence.

I did a search for books which address this issue and found several.

The Memory Keeper’s Daughter, by Kim Edwards (read my review) addresses negativity and discrimination (from the medical field and also educators) toward children with Down’s Syndrome (Fiction).

Show Me No Mercy, by Robert Perske is a young adult book which examines society’s lack of acceptance of people with disabilities (Fiction).

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, by Mark Haddon tells the story of a young autistic boy arrested for a crime he did not commit (Fiction).

No Pity: People With Disabilities Forging A New Civil Rights Movement, by Joseph P. Shapiro explores the thoughts, fears and facts which surround the disability rights movement (Non Fiction).

Nothing About Us Without Us: Disability Oppression and Empowerment, by James Charlton produces “a ringing indictment of disability oppression, which, he says, is rooted in degradation, dependency, and powerlessness and is experienced in some form by five hundred million persons throughout the world who have physical, sensory, cognitive, or developmental disabilities.” (Non Fiction)

I also discovered this source book: Portraying Persons With Disabilities, Debra Robertson which is written for children and teenagers and is a selective annotated bibliography including more than 650 fiction titles that promote acceptance and understanding of the disabled (Non Fiction).

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    • Jenny on May 23, 2008 at 18:00

    Thanks for such a thoughtful post — your patients are lucky to have someone as dedicated and passionate as you!

    I read both The Memory Keeper’s Daughter and The Curious Incident of the Dog at Midnight and loved them both… I’ll have to check out the other books you posted about!

    • Teddy on May 23, 2008 at 21:33

    Great topic! As you may know, I’m a social worker, working in the mental heath field. Before mental health, I worked with adults with developmental disabilities. So, this is a issue close to my heart. A lot of my job in both fields has been advocacy.

  1. Wonderful post! In India, there is no proper care for the disabled. They are discriminated against by most, even educated people. There is a slow change but not much. I must read the books you mention here. Thanks!

    Child Abuse

    • Jeane on May 24, 2008 at 15:08

    What an important issue. I did not know the Memory Keeper’s Daughter was about Down Syndrome- I will have to read that one. I did read the Curious Incident… and did not get the impression it was about discrimiation.

    • Wendy on May 25, 2008 at 07:25

    Jenny: Thank you for visiting and your kind comments…

    Teddy: I didn’t realize you were a social worker (or maybe I knew at one time but forgot!). No wonder we enjoy each others’ blogs…we’re two of a kind 🙂

    Gautami: That is so sad that the disabled are so discriminated in India…I hope that will change with education and time.

    Jeane: I really related to The Memory Keeper’s Daughter. I haven’t read Curious Incident yet (although it is on my TBR mountain)…but from reading the blurbs about it, it sounded like the first reaction to the crime was to arrest the boy with autism…I see this knee jerk reaction of different=scary or dangerous, all the time…and to me this is just another form of discrimination…which is why I included the book in my list.

    • Kim L on May 25, 2008 at 21:15

    Great topic! I have been working in the social services field for a number of years now and I feel like I’ve seen it all working with with developmentally disabled adults. I’ve seen clients kicked out of church because they made sighing noises when they breathed (too loud!) and a dying client in a hospice have her feeding tube removed by the medical team, because, hey she was going to die eventually anyway. I’ve seen plenty of good trends too, but there is a lot of prejudice in the world against people who are different.

    • Wendy on May 26, 2008 at 18:30

    Kim: *nodding, nodding* I have seen some great responses, but like you – all too often I see the bad stuff. We had a neighbor who requested that the adults with DD living next door to him NEVER leave their house to walk around the neighborhood because they were “too loud” and therefore “scared” his kids. It is constant education…and even then, there will be those people who just don’t get it. Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment.

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