In a recent column, noted Canadian author and blogger Dave Hingsburger wrote about being asked “the impossible question”. He’d been in what he called a heated conversation with a man who thought he understood disability accessibility (the man did not). In frustration the man shouted at Hingsburger, “Just what do you disabled people want, anyways?”
This is a question that has been asked of lots of different people over the decades. All you have to do is substitute some other social or ethnic group for the word disabled and you can probably remember hearing it before. What do you feminists want? What you do Black people want? What do you Latinos want? What do you Occupy people want?
Hingsburger pointed out correctly that when one person in a conversation is suddenly changed from being an individual to “you people” the conversation has come to an end. It has become an opportunity for the other person to engage in a rant or diatribe. All hope of polite discourse is gone.
After all, how is it that one guy can be the spokesperson for any group of what is really a diverse collection of people? When I think about the amalgamation of people who have disabilities I think of people who are old, young and in the middle. I think of males, females and people who are transgendered. I think of people from every race, nationality and religion and in that I include atheists and agnostics. I think of people from every socioeconomic group.
So how can Hingsburger or I or any other person with a disability speak for the rest? We are too different.
But wait! Even though I say that, I must also say that we are also the same in many ways as each other and everyone else in the world. There are things we all want and to explain that I refer to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, the Parental Pre-K Approach and the Franklin Principle of Human Interaction.
In 1943 Abraham Maslow wrote a paper that put basic human needs in the form of a pyramid. At the base, the most important needs are physiological: food, water, sleep, etc. Next is safety: shelter, safety from wild beasts and marauding invaders. Third is love and belonging in the form of family and sexual relationships. Fourth on the pyramid is esteem: self-confidence, respect of others, respect from others, and achievement. At the top of the pyramid, Maslow put self-actualization. This includes morality, creativity, problem solving and lack of prejudice.
All of that sounds good. Yes, I want that.
Here is the Parental Pre-K Approach. Think back to when you were small. What did your parents tell you besides don’t eat paste? They gave you a list of rules that probably contains:
- Be fair
- If you can’t say anything nice about someone, don’t say anything
- Say please and thank you
- Ask the kid on the sidelines to play with you and your friends
Yep, I like the sound of that, too. I’ll bet everyone else does.
To put it all in a nutshell I would direct you to the Franklin Principle of Human Interaction. R-E-S-P-E-C-T. That’s right, I’m talking about Aretha Franklin and wiser words were never said.
We all want to be treated fairly and with respect. We all want to be safe and live our lives much as everyone else does. We, at least those of us here in the United States along with many people from other countries, want the American dream. We want to be educated. We want to be gainfully employed. We want families and homes. We want to be able to provide for those families. We want to be able to retire comfortably someday.
People who have disabilities want what everyone else wants. We just need some accommodations along the way and keep in mind those accommodations are guaranteed us by law. So, we want to be able to enter buildings just like everyone else. We want to be able to use the public restroom. We want to be able to go to the movies or to museums like everyone else. We want to use the Internet, watch TV, have access to emergency information and do all that without having to fight every single time.
People with disabilities want the same things you want