When disability deduces incompetence
Updated: Feb 25
Imagine if Stephen Hawking had been born with his disability.
As a society, we judge a person’s capabilities based on how they present physically, including how they move their body and how they sound when they speak.
When a person's voice is clear, audible and sounds within the perimeters of what most people sound like-that is, without disability or ‘difference’ (which is really crazy because there are many many invisible disabilities)..
We assume intelligence.
We assume competence.
..unless they prove otherwise.
There are many people in this world without the ability to communicate verbally.
Stephen Hawking was one of them.
He was a theoretical physicist, cosmologist, author and Director of research and has contributed to our world in the field of science for many years in many ways.
Yet, he had no direct verbal voice.
We know he could communicate. We know his cognitive abilities were perfectly functional and we know he was of above average intelligence.
But how do we know?
Because we saw him, heard him speak and knew him before he was disabled; before his physical being was affected by the neurodegenerative disease (ALS).
But what if he had been born with the same physical body and inability to speak that he lived with in his later life?
Would he have been given the chance to communicate? To share his theories, to even study?
Would we have taken him seriously as a person?
Would we know of his brilliance and intelligence?
Would we ever have heard his theories, read his research?
Though these seem extremely indignant questions, we see people with disabilities and differences considered in this very way every day.
There are assumptions made about the competence and intelligence of people with disabilities consistently and without thought.
Yet, there are many people who disprove and defy these assumptions.
Here are some examples..
People who are non verbal HEAR US. They hear everything we say, to them and about them.
People with disabilities are capable in many, many ways.
We just need to suspend our disbelief, our conditioning and let go of the social constructs that perpetuate the myth that they aren't.
We must stop believing that people who are different from us physically are not as intelligent or as competent in any capacity.
How many more incredible, intelligent, insightful and wonderful human beings exist in our every day that we aren’t paying attention to due to disability?
Is there someone in your world you can consider differently?
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