“During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act.” George Orwell

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The "reality of one's condition"

I was recently reading from a curriculum on disability. Under the heading of "Grief and Depression" was the following statement. "Acceptance does not change the reality of one's condition." As I pondered that statement, for some reason it didn't sit well with me.

As I think about the "reality" of a disability condition, I wondered about the reality functionally and the reality socially. I think that one can actually change the reality of one's condition. The reality functionally has been changed through curb cuts, TDD, and electric wheelchairs. Universal design has at times changed the environment such that the functional reality has indeed changed. Being someone with quadriplegia no longer means that I must live my life relegated to a bed, or unable to move about the community. Through creativity of people, the functional reality of many aspects of disability has changed and increasingly, people experiencing needen't accept many of the functional aspects of disability. Clearly, many aspects may never change. However, many aspects are truly due to an unimaginative environment.

The social reality is equally difficult to change it seems. How does one change the enviornment such that it sees people first? I have friends who have intellectual disabilities, yet they hold jobs, live in their own apartment, receive support from a variety of people, and generally enjoy their lives. Yet they are not seen as typical because the environment imposes a social reality on them that they have great difficulty escaping.

Clearly there is overlap between social and physical reality so that the distinction might be somewhat arbitrary. And the negative effects are clearly cumulative.

However, we as the church should be on the forefront of changing the reality of a disabling condition.
If I babysit for a friend's child with a severe disability, I have changed the reality of disability for those parents.

If I take a man with an intellectual disability out for lunch, I have changed the reality of disability for that man.

If I make a previously inaccessible building accessible, I have changed the reality of disabilty for anyone endeavoring to enter that building.

If I seek out persons experiencing various disabilities in an effort at evangelism, I change the reality of disability for those people regarding the Christian church.

Some aspects of disability must be accepted. Some aspects of disability need not be accepted if only the environment, in particular the Church would be what it was meant to be.



Anonymous said...

Very Interesting!
Thank You!

Anonymous said...

Clear and understandable, McNair. I don't think very many people understand the distinction you have made here. Thank you. Barbara

Anonymous said...

I loved reading this blog entry. Not only does it take an interesting look at the reality of disabilities but it brought a whole new thought to mind that I have never thought about before hand. The quote, “acceptance does not change the reality of one’s condition” was unsettling to me as well. I agree wholeheartedly with your take on this quote. Accepting the reality of your condition can change tons of things! When you accept your disability your functionality increases exponentially. When we accept someone has a disability we have the power to make his or her functionality change. We can make a building more accessible to them; we can give them a wheelchair so they have mobility, we can adjust their schooling to help them succeed and change our city to make it more accessible to them. I also agree that while changing functionality can be easy changing the social reality of a disability is more difficult. To change the social reality we need to change society’s attitudes and responses towards disabilities, which is challenging. I also agree that the first place this needs to take place is the church. We are God’s people and are supposed to love his people no matter how God made them. Our love and acceptance to them should be limitless and unfailing, like God’s love towards us. If God loves me despite all my sins why shouldn’t I love someone who has not sinned at all but was just made differently than I? We are both made in God’s eyes as perfection and should be treated as such.

Anonymous said...

I like the way you have presented this concept. Many of us do not think we are capable of making a significant difference in another person’s life. You have presented it so simply it is hard to believe we miss it every day. The ones who most need a friend are right before us and they would give anything for a cheerful “hello” or conversation over a cup of coffee. We make life so busy we miss often what is most important. Most of us are so self absorbed with our own trivial lives, we fail to reach out to others.
This is not the example Christ gave us and it is poor representation of his sacrifice. He came for the weak, the destitute, the father less, and the widow. Christ very heart is for the poor. Every day is new day we choices serve him or not. And one day we will all stand before God and give an account for what we did in this life. I know I am often guilty following my own way rather than Gods.
The thing of it is, is kindness is not heard if we would stop and take the time. I know I have a hard time believing that my simple kindness could change someone’s reality. That’s an amazing truly a life changing concept.

George said...

Amazing insight Jeff. I really like when you commented that many aspects of disability are due to an "unimaginative environment." People with disabilities experience so much hardship because society, especially the church, is so resistant to change. What it really all comes down to is the fact that we are a selfish world. Why change something if I have no problem with it? Why would we have to create a ramp if I can get up the stairs, it is not my problem that that man over there cannot get up. The reason why we have become so selfish is because we have become increasingly segregated from people with disabilities as a result of special education, handicapped seating areas, etc. If society was to be in constant interaction with people with disabilities, then they would be forced to begin getting to know these individuals. Once they are able to get to know and understand people with disabilities, they will be able to see their cause in a different light and eventually, hopefully, become less selfish. The reality of disability can change drastically for the good if people around those with disabilities are simply being aware.