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Disability and race

Over the past few years I’ve been privy to people’s perspective on the disabled in this country as far as how they are treated, their rights and just about any and every thing which they see as an issue.

However, there is one thing which I’ve heard but have not commented much on and funny enough someone brought it up last week. So I decided that I would deal with that today.

The person wanted to know why the black race seems to be doomed. “You mean we are so unlucky that many of our children are born deformed and disabled while white people as usual get off scot-free?” she asked.

Well I thought that was a mouthful. As indicated earlier, this is not the first time I’ve heard these kinds of statements, but I have to admit that every time I hear them I jump.

Of course, I don’t think there’s anything about my race which is doomed or unlucky. I just think that we make judgments based on only what we see when there are many factors which contribute to a scenario.

Yes, we in Barbados have our disabled community and many of those are children, but we are no different from any other country regardless of race. We are a nation where black people make up over 93 per cent of our population so it is a given that we will be the “highlighted” race regardless of the circumstance. After all, the other races who reside here partake in illegal activities, do some questionable things and have a disabled community – those aren’t things that are reserved for us!

While other races have disabled children as well, one thing which most of them do is educate them privately. This is a reality and something which many don’t have the opportunity to see. I’ve seen children of all races with every disability you can think about, however their parents have opted to keep them privatised as far as their education is concerned.

This shouldn’t be of any surprise since the opposite holds true – private schooling is the first choice for many of the other races. So it’s not that we are any worse off, it’s just that you have to know where to go to see “the others”.

This also leads to another discussion point, which is poverty. It seems like most, if not all disabled persons, seen to come from a poor background. Most of the parents are in need of some kind of financial assistance, and sometimes there is more than one disabled person in the family and they are hardly ever in a position to receive quick private medical treatment as there is no money.

Most of the parents are working-class and don’t have the finances to do anything extra since taking care of a disabled child or adult is an expensive undertaking.

It’s easy to see why some would be bitter when they look around and see how “we” look. The image and reality are hard to accept, especially when we see what appears to be the other half being healthy and successful.

However, there are some realities which unite us. I don’t know of any parent who wouldn’t readily take the place of their disabled child. Don’t know of one who doesn’t wonder about the kind of future they would have. None who wonder about themselves dying and having no one to take care of the individual. None who isn’t afraid to take them out because of what inconsiderate and uncaring human beings say and do.

Don’t know of any who are tired of getting the run around from the authorities about better health and social care and none who at one point didn’t wonder what it is that he/she did to be in this situation.

I know that looking on it seems like we’re always getting the short end of the stick but trust me, everyone else is dealing with their struggles – even if some pretend that they aren’t. What I think needs to happen is a coming together to see how we can help each other.

For too long it has been “them and us”, and this “fear” of being vulnerable and transparent. It’s amazing how we allow misconceptions and misinformation to not only cloud our judgment but deny us opportunity to share and help each other when we all have so much to offer!

For a country that’s only 166 square miles, this is not something we need to cause anymore division. What we need to do is focus on making life as happy and comfortable for our children and understand that we are in no way separated by disability, but are very much united in the fight for equality and betterment.

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