The Huffington Post’s article about abuse towards disabled adults hit me hard in the stomach. Before citing some absolutely appalling stories and details, the article reports that disabled adults are at a much higher risk of being physically and sexually abused than non-disabled adults.
This hurts. It hurts every single one of us. Our health as a family, a society, and a planet is directly tied to the way we treat our vulnerable or misunderstood community members. If a person is fragile physically, mentally or socially, the healthiest possible human grouping will take the best possible care of them. The weakest possible human grouping will take advantage of them. If someone mistreats a disabled person, it’s not just a problem; it’s a symptom of societal disease.
I truly believe that speaking to a person with a social or cognitive disability, then becoming their friend, then learning to love them as a contributing member of society will impact so much more than the rights of the disabled. Once your brain is open to compassionate understanding, it will affect the way you treat everyone else in your network, disabled or not. A person with a disability is one of the best possible candidates for instilling this sense of compassion.
The tenet that increased interaction with cognitively disabled people will lead to greater societal compassion is one of the more idealistic or “visionary” philosophies behind The Great Exchange (as opposed to “practical”), but it runs deep. It will be a long time before something like that can be measured. But there it is, tucked away, driving the more practical in’s and out’s. I guess I just take this one on faith.