Source: Paul Brennan
The other day I was at the tube station and next to me there was a disabled woman in a wheel chair. I am a bit of an observer and started to look at the people surrounding her, and I was surprised when I realised that most of the people reacted the same way when they approached her. They asked the woman is she all right, if she was lost and generally they were trying to help. It was reminiscent of a situation where adults find a child out alone, at a time when they believe that child should be at home or accompanied. In other words, they were treating her like a child, just because she was in a wheelchair. This situation is normalized in our society, most of us don’t ponder on it, but it coats a deeper problem.
Society’s paternalistic attitude towards disabled people is expressed daily when people assume they don’t possess the full mental capacities to decide for themselves and live in a perpetual state of confusion. Especially regarding those who are physically handicapped, there is a skewed perception of these people as poor and needy. But to integrate people into any society the key comes through respecting their autonomy, in other words, not demoting them to the status of a child. They don’t want to be treated as special people because that would exclude them from the rest, and like all other human beings, they just want to be part of the group.
A clear example of this comes when we talk about the sexual relationships disabled people experience. It seems that most of us avoid this issue, but why? Homosexuals tend to know at least a little about heterosexual sex. Society treats disabled people, both mental and physical in this case, as asexual people. We tend to act as though they don’t have natural biological drives like able bodied people, and that is wrong. We can see this problem especially when only countries like Germany, the Netherlands, Denmark, and Belgium have included the sexual attendance as a service in the sanitary system. The rest of the disabled people from the other countries are forced to leave their sexual and relationship aspirations unvoiced, take it up themselves (shows such as the Undateables showed this) or in other cases with the unique possibility to go to prostitutes.
There is still a long road to walk ahead, particularly with the vision that the movies offer of this problem. Usually, disabled relations aren’t shown at all or they do it unrealistically. Fortunately, there is a film I really recommend you to see, the name is Rust and Bone. In that film, they explain this problem first hand and how to treat it. They also show in the film how even if you are a disabled person you can always overcome any type of disadvantage despite the stigma faced throughout society. It is crazy how many interesting people, with whom we could have perfectly normal and great sexual experiences (as they are shown in the movies 😉 ). Most of us don’t have the chance to meet these people since social settings are usually filled with able bodied people. But also, just because of social prejudging. To finish, and as a true confession, I have to say that after watching the film, all the problems you may think you have will vanish compared with all the adversities these people have to face every day.
By Oier Sola Bilbao
Facebook: Oier Sola Bilbao