People are comfortable with things they understand, because that puts them in a place of control. When you no longer know how to control something, you may not know what to think of it and your feelings toward it will probably change.
Prejudice is what comes about when there’s ignorance, a lack of understanding, a lack of acceptance. I’ve wanted to talk about disability/disorder prejudice because I’ve realised that it is largely misunderstood and holds a lot of people culprit- and many of us won’t even realise it!
I’ll start with myself and my experience with this topic, because there have definitely been times I’ve approached situations in ways that weren’t the best. Nothing major, nothing so obvious that you’d be able to call it. More like the cautious and often awkward persona a lot of us take on when we’re talking about or interacting with somebody a little different from us.
There are a lot of different ways you can be considered prejudiced- you might be a shop owner who refuses to have ramps in your store or a passerby pretending not to see somebody. Another thing I wanted to mention is how people who seem seem very understanding and tolerant of those with special needs are seen. You know what I mean, right? Someone’s proud of you because you talked to someone who “wasn’t all there.” You’re a great person because you went out of your way to help “that person.” Or even things like this- I don’t know if you’ve seen the footage, but when the Duke and Duchess came to Australia, there was a meet up where a small boy, Luke Vincent touched Prince Harry’s beard, and it just.. blew up the news. Video after video after video. Luke is five, and he has Down syndrome. His teacher told the press that she was thankful for the kindness Luke was shown and how gracious Harry was about it. I honestly think this was a very cute moment, but what else did they expect to happen? I feel even the best of us often forget to look beyond what we initially see and open our eyes to the person, instead of seeing someone who we need to change our behaviour around.
It’s been ingrained in our society to consider disability the biggest tragedy and obstacle a person can face, but is it really? Many people, able bodied or otherwise, are out there making something of themselves. Often people with these extra struggles are more capable than the average Joe- they work with their own needs and live normal lives. A great example of this is Sofya Gollan, a hearing impaired TV presenter on play school. There’s more too- Millie Bobbie Brown, who got pretty damn famous after Stranger Things, is half deaf. Stephen Hawking, one of the smartest people ever to have to lived, had ALS, a chronic, progressive neurological disease. Tim Burton, director of many beloved films- Miss Peregrine’s home for peculiar children, Beetlejuice, Charlie and The Chocolate Factory.
And this brings me onto my third and most important point- when I was three, after a couple of years of too much screaming and a dislike of the horrible material of my car seat, I was diagnosed with mild autism. Three, I was three. The doctor said I would have to be drugged in order for my parents to be able to take me to school. They said I’d have struggles my whole life. Nearly twelve years on and none of those things rang true, but occasionally the word autism gets thrown around in relation to me, and people look in shock and tell me how normal I am, how they’d never have known if they weren’t told. They talk about me being highly intelligent.. And I’m always ashamed- I already know these things of myself, but this highly outdated, untrue diagnosis seems to be hanging over my head, waiting to embarrass me at the worst times. I don’t like it. I suppose that’s another way of being prejudiced- it does feel like the worst thing ever because society says it is. But how much more are we? How much can we reach? Once you look beyond, we are all on the same level and all struggle with something. Disabilities and disorders are not the end of the world.. in fact, for some, they are only the start.