“The first step toward change is awareness. The second step is acceptance.” – Nathaniel Branden
Ignorance. The opposite of awareness. The driving force behind hatred. The inexcusable excuse for mistreatment. My heart is broken into pieces by the ignorance in this world surrounding disability awareness. Why do we have months dedicated to awareness of cerebral palsy, down syndrome, autism, etc.? Disabilities are not searching for cures. They do not need to be cured. They need to be understood.
Humans communicate in countless ways and languages, verbally and non-verbally. Disabilities like autism, cerebral palsy, and down syndrome may cause someone to not be able to communicate in the way that most people do: verbally. One of my sweetest friends is a 6-year-old boy with down syndrome. He is selectively verbal, meaning he communicates without words most of the time, and he is absolutely fearless. He is bold and stubborn and likes to wrestle more than anything in this world. I have seen people express fear and confusion towards him when they see him acting a little differently than other kids. It breaks my heart into pieces. Down syndrome can affect growth and communicative abilities. He functions a little bit differently, and he communicates a little bit differently. That is nothing to fear, and nothing to be confused about. It is something to be embraced and accepted with open arms. Imagine a world in which the differences between us united us, rather than divided us. Rather than looking at my sweet 6-year-old friend with fear and confusion, let him hug you. I promise disabilities do not make anyone scary, they make someone human.
Something that I feel is so misunderstood is the fact that disabilities are a product of humanity and a product of genetics. The biodiversity in our species is so beautiful and unique and we need to embrace the different ways that our bodies have developed. Disabilities are NOT scary. They are not something that you need to pity. They are not weird or creepy or strange. Disabilities are normal. They are okay. They are a part of someone’s story.
Staff Writer, Hanna Gaither