Toronto is buzzing about a 'feel good' story of parents who 'won' the right to 'keep' their baby 'even though,' gasp, they have cerebral palsy. Children's Aide had swooped in, prepared to snatch the baby - saving it from a life of being loved by parents who desperately wanted their child. This story has been mentioned to me seemingly thousands of times. Most who mentioned the story focused on the Hollywood ending. Perhaps even right now there are some actors and actresses, without disabilities of course, hoping the play the role on screen.
I want you to take a really good look at the Toronto Star article, read it carefully. There is so much to write about here. I'm going to resist the temptation to rage about the powers that the state assumes when someone has a disability. I remember very clearly doing a session with couples with intellectual disabilities wherein a man discussed his wish to have a child with his wife and the fears that he had that the child would be stolen from them, saying, 'as soon as they call you disabled they start taking things away from you.' I trust that most readers here will understand what he's saying.
What bothered me was the massive betrayal, in that article, from Linda Soulliere, executive director of the Coalition for Persons with Disabilities. Yes, she stood for the rights of the couple to be parents. Yes, she offered support. All that is laudable. But, one would guess, that's also her job. One can almost hear her pride in her accomplishment as she describes the couple as 'competent' and reassures us all that they will do fine with the baby. How cutting edge is she? Wow.
As you can tell. I'm angry with her.
Because after all that she goes on to reveal her own prejudice and bias. Yep, the Executive Director of the Coalition for Persons with Disabilities makes sure that people understand that 'rights' and 'competence' belong to only one set of people with disabilities, let's not go wild here. All, definitely doesn't mean all. Note the purposeful exclusion in her interchange with the Star, "There is a misperception that people with disabilities that affect
their speech have 'lower cognitive ability,' Soulliere said, but that’s
not the case." She allows readers to rest assured that discrimination against people with "lower cognitive abilities" is still a done deal. Yepper, you won't find crusader Linda defending "those people" having children, keeping children, raising children. God Forbid!!!
Interestingly the "plan" that Soulliere outlined sounds an awful lot like the work done by ACHIEVA's Parent Education Program in the States. They provide support and assistance to parents with intellectual disabilities. I can just imagine Ms Soulliere fleeing the room screaming at this news. Yes, there is an organization that has the courage and determination to assist people with intellectual disabilities exercise their fundamental right to be a family. By the by, this organization has been doing this work for a very, very, long time. I knew about it, and I'm certainly not the Executive Director of the Coalition for Persons With Disabilities. I'm just a disabled dude.
Ms Soulliere, if you read this, I want you to understand that 'Disability' is a very big word. It refers to a very large community. It's a word that isn't 'owned' by people with physical disabilities, it isn't owned by any particular group. If you are going to use the word DISABILITY without a qualifier it means that you are making reference to 'a borderless community of people with disabilities'. Everytime you speak you make it clear that people with intellectual disabilities 'dirty up' the word "Disability" and that the broader community who read Canada's largest subscription newspaper, understands 'wink wink' that when you say 'DISABILITY' you certainly don't mean 'them'.
Not only do you say this in an interview with the Star, you say it over and over again. Finally in one article you make it clear that you are representing people with physical disabilities, and that when it comes to people with intellectual disabilities you choose to be as uninformed and prejudiced as you expect those who read your words or hear your interviews to be. You may be enjoying your 'fifteen minutes of shame' but do you have to have it at the expense of the reputation of people with intellectual disabilities?
Back to you readers, did you notice in the article that at one point that Ms Soulliere, the EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF THE COALITION FOR PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES, gets a bit preachy and says, "there needs to be more education … especially essential services
like CAS need to make sure that their workers are experienced and have
exposure to persons with disabilities, so they can more adequately see
the ability that also accompanies the disability.”
I would suggest that before she openly vilify people with intellectual disabilities again, she might want to meet one or two. But, I'm guessing that "seeing the ability that also accompanies the disability" might be a little bit out of her grasp. I'm not sure that "education" and "experience" would take here..
Thanks Madame Executive Director, you've just made the journey to rights and freedom for people with intellectual disabilities longer and harder - nice job.
Coalition, my ass.