“Finnish law states that a disabled person must not be discriminated against because of his or her disability. A disabled person has the right to live a normal life, for example, to study, work and start a family. Finland is also committed to the UN treaty on the rights of persons with disabilities.”(infofinland)
How many times we hear of a disabled people who study, work and start a family of their own. Quite rarely I think. Mostly I read from news or watch documents that say how difficult the life of disabled and their family members are. My own experiences of working or confronting disabled people are quite limited. In my childhood we sometimes took care of our relatives’ daughter who had severe down syndrome. As a child I never saw that we were different in a sense that she wouldn’t automatically have the same rights and opportunities as I have. Of course when I crew up I learned how difficult the situation was for the whole family and especially for the girl. As long as she would live, her parents would be there to take care of her. Her chances to normal life were poor due to her disability.
Having a disability means the difficulty of learning and understanding new things. The impact of mental disability on an individual’s life varies greatly. The development of a disability can be mild, in which case the person will get along fairly independently and need support only in some areas of life. A severely mentally retarded person needs constant support.
Most of the disabled people are in home care but some are in facilities or in group homes where they have supported housing services and daytime activities.
Last week I watched an episode of Finnish documentary series Arman Pohjantähden alla: intellectual disabilities; Right to Happiness. In this particular episode there was a facility in Nokia that was founded from a parent’s need to support the families of disabled people. Riitta who was the muse of Sofiakylä facility has her own experience of being caregiver for her disabled daughter and her views inspired opening this place to support the families of disabled people.
In the episode Arman honestly tells the personnel that he had some prejudice and fear before coming into Sofiankylä that was mainly caused by the fact that he didn’t have any experience of confronting disabled people. During the episode words like transparency, genuine encounter and right to live a happy fulfilling life came up multiple times. Why are these values so strange to us and why is it hard to confront people with special needs?
We as humans face many fears and fears prevents us from doing many things. Thru our fears we might act differently when we face people that we are not familiar with. Is human dignity reserved only for the normal people and what is normal?
I hope that during this Learning by Developing project that we are doing with our group I learn a lot more about disabilities, their challenges in life and also how could I in my own input ease the prejudice that disabled people face in their daily lives.
When You Pass Me on the Street: a Poem About Disability by Rachell Cantell
When I attempt to speak to you, you merely give me blank stares and overly frustrated sighs
When you pass me on the street, you always try to turn away and avoid my searching eyes
When I opt to sit at the table next to yours, you rise and move to another one much farther away
When I dare to ask you a question, you do not even try to understand me and hear what I have to say
If, by chance, you do somehow glance my way, your eyes are so often filled with disgust and fear
And you simply do not care to see the pain that you cause while, from my eye, escapes an unseen tear
Sometimes, I feel as if nobody can actually see me for the person I am; perhaps, I’m truly invisible
Why must you choose to either totally ignore me or judge me with eyes so piteous and miserable?
Why do you view me with such a glacial heart and not see the real person who is living inside?
You cannot see the way in which you treat me makes me want to find a dark place to hide
Is it possible for you not to judge me and see that I’m just like you, a common Homo sapien?
Why is it that you look upon me as being so different than yourself and as such a mysterious alien?
Am I so grotesque to you that you cannot stand, for an instant, to simply smile and look at my face?
Are you really that uncomfortable to see me outside of my proper position and accepted place?
All you notice about me is how my words are so unintelligible and how my movements are so erratic
You see me through your biased lens of intolerance and assume that my head is full of senseless static
My bent and twisted frame blinds you to the fact that I have genuine feelings and a sensitive heart
It is impossible for you to see that your cold and condescending stares are tearing my self-esteem apart
I just wish that you would only slow down and take the time to get to know me as a human being
You might be surprised to discover the extent to which the experience could be liberating and freeing
Just stop whatever it is you happen to be so busy doing and chat with me for a little while
Perhaps, you would be pleasantly surprised to find that I might even bring to your face a smile
And perhaps, I can make your long-held prejudices and preconceived notions come to an end
And maybe, you might discover that I can be a kindred spirit and possibly even a lifelong friend.