Imagine a boy is born into a family. But the family didn't want a boy, they wanted a girl. So they give the boy a name that disrespects the fact that he is a boy. Maybe they call him Sally. Sally goes through his life, living with the message that he is unwanted, that he is a disappointment. He may be gifted, but the the family will never know of his gifts because they see him through eyes that communicate their understanding of who he is; a disappointment. When he becomes what is projected upon him by his family, no one is surprised. In fact it is exactly as everyone thought, a self-fulfilling prophecy. Within the family this perhaps does not seem unkind because they are so convinced of their perceptions about Sally that they cannot imagine him any differently.
When I go to the movies, I enter the theater to a blank, large, white screen. As I sit there, I am hoping something memorable will be projected upon the screen. I may see love on that screen or I may see violence. I may see beauty or I may see horror and want to turn away from the screen. In the case of the screen, it has no qualities in and of itself, other than its ability to show what is projected upon it.
People can be treated like screens. They become to us and others what we project upon them. If we project sorrow, they are sad. If we project uselessness, they are ungifted. If we project beauty, they get a second look. But people are not like screens, we are told they have basic value, in themselves, independent of what we project upon them.
I project you have no value, the reality is still, that you are indispensable.
I project you are ugly, the reality is still, that you are created in the Image of God.
I project you are dishonorable, the reality is still, that you are worthy of special honor.
I project you are sinful or evil, the reality is still, that the purpose of your life is that the works of God might be seen in and through you.
I project you are a mistake, the reality is still, that you were knit together in your mother's womb.
I project you are other, the reality is still, that you are the same as me.
I project you are a bother, the reality is still, that your mere presence reveals who I am and corrects me.
If your understanding of individuals with disabilities is that they are in reality the ways people have projected on them who they are, then the problem is YOU it is not THEM. And the problem most often is YOU and it is ME.
Would we blame the child who is raised in an abusive family for their abuse? Should we blame our misunderstandings of who persons with disabilities are on them?