During your life you meet people who have a variety of disabilities. When most people think of disabilities they see them through the lens of the medical model. This model looks at disabilities as something that needs to be cured and thinks very little about making the world accessible to people with disabilities. This is why it is important to consider everything you hear with a critical mind and not judge others. Disability pride is seeing all disabilities as a natural and beautiful part of human diversity.
Muscular dystrophy (MD) is a group of diseases that cause loss of muscle mass. Searching for a cure, without supporting people with MD, has led to misguided pity towards people with MD. The Jerry Lewis telethon was a yearly fundraiser that contributed to the image of MD and disabilities as a something that we should all fear and that people with disabilities should be pitied. Every year, until 2014, the Jerry Lewis telethon used pity as a way to raise money. This is a great example of doing something for and not with people with disabilities. This is not a model of inclusion. Inclusion happens when all are welcome with an equal seat at the table.
Jerry Lewis told the public it was sad to have MD and the children on the telethon got the bad nickname “Jerry’s Kids.” Each year the telethon concluded with Jerry singing to a kid with MD. In this model pity is used to raise money. This spread negative stereotypes.
My concern is discussions or causes and cures for disability often result in pity. Pity doesn’t help anyone. It hurts when the disabled community is portrayed as “the other.” In this case the Telethon was seen through the Medical model lens. This was why the cancelation of the MD telethon was celebrated by a group called Jerry’s Orphans, that protested since 1991 and were one of the reasons Jerry Lewis resigned in 2011.
Instead of looking through the lens of the medical model you can be inclusive. See disability as a natural and beautiful thing. Listen and help when possible. The most important thing is to be inclusive. The best way of being inclusive is to be real and accept people the way they are. Some people called self-advocate and allies would advocate for each other. Jerry’s Orphans where inclusive when they joined with supporters with a shared goal of ending the telethon. When you make room for and accept people with different disabilities as equals and accept any alternative technology that could help the person with the disability you are being inclusive. Understanding disability pride and being inclusive will help with future bad information and poor images.
You can see these myths as pitfalls for what they are, bad information that makes disability a charity case and something to avoid. It is good to learn about all disabilities. Just know one piece of information does not make you an expert and take time to get to know people and look past poor images.