Do not curse the deaf or put a stumbling block in front of the blind, but fear your God. I am the LORD.
I have written about this verse elsewhere in this blog but in discussions with my disability studies class last night, I was struck once again about one aspect of this part of scripture. If someone curses a deaf person, there is a good chance that the person who is deaf will not know it. If someone puts a stumbling block in front of a blind person, there is a good chance that the blind person will not know the stumbling block was deliberately placed there. In each of these cases, those who are being victimized do not know they are being victimized. The deaf person doesn't know that they are being degraded before the society in which they find themselves if I curse them. The blind person would simply assume that there was a stumbling block that happened to be in their way even though I might have put it there to entertain myself or those observing the situation when the person trips and falls down. There is thus a protective function that people in the environment must play in the lives of people with disabilities (or those experiencing other forms of devaluing) although those who are experiencing the devaluing may not realize they are being devalued or teased or victimized.
I stop someone from cursing a deaf person whether or not the deaf person knows it because I understand the ramifications of allowing someone to be victimized by the environment. I prevent someone from placing a stumbling block before a blind person because I recognize the effect of allowing people to make fun or sport of a person who is potentially defenseless against such taunting. I do it because I understand the ramification of not doing it even though those who are the victims may not directly perceive the ramifications because of their disability.
I have intellectually disabled friends who talk to me about how some people are nice to them and some people are not nice to them. The situations they describe reveal that people are unkind in ways that reveal their taunting of a person with a disability...their taunting is disability related. My friends do not make that connection, the connection to a personal characteristic that they have, but simply just see the other person as randomly nice or not nice.
As an advocate, I must be aware of the ways in which a person is wounded (search this post for the 18 wounds) and do what I can to prevent the wounding, whether or not the person with disabilities is aware of the fact that they are being wounded. I know people with high functioning autism who are unaware of the way they come across socially. Because of their consistent experience socially with the world whereby they are treated as if they were strange or weird, I attempt to mitigate social situations such that relationships are less tempered by the environment's perception that the person with autism is strange. They may not be aware, I am. Through my efforts it is hoped that the wounding ceases, independent of the perceptions of the person with the disability.