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Wednesday, June 21, 2006

A new discovery

While taking public transit today, I happened to be facing a poster encouraging employers to hire people with disabilities. I then made an interesting discovery about myself.

It turns out, I'm disabled. Funny. I never knew.

After reading the list of "disabilities" on the poster - which finished with "other disabilities," to show that the already extensive list was incomplete, I've discovered that my husband and 13 yo daughter are also disabled. In fact, according to that list, just about everyone is at least potentially disabled.

I'm on the list because I have arthritis. Now, I have a hard enough time thinking of my post-traumatic osteoarthritis as a "disease" as it is. Now it's considered a disability, too. Back problems was on the list, which includes an aweful lot of people. Diabetes is considered a disability too, as is depression. Since just about everyone and their dog (or cat, for that matter) is considerred depressed these days, that sure covers a huge segment of the population. Substance abuse is also considered a disability, according to this list.

While I admire the intent of this organization, and agree that employers need to look beyond a person's disabilities, I'm taken aback by how all encompassing the term disability has become. Since when did illnesses become disabilities? Yes, some illnesses are disabling, but not all illnesses can be considered disabilities. I can see it in some cases - there are hundreds of types of arthritis, for example, and some are truly disabling. I have a hard time including most OA cases among them. OA is a wear and tear condition that we all will eventually get. It's just a matter of time and how well we take care of our bodies. Signs of OA are visible in Xrays of people in their early 20's, and many people don't even know they've got OA. Why would they? It doesn't affect them in any way. Yet, according to this list, they are disabled. And what of diabetics? I certainly can't view my type 2 diabetic FIL , for example, as disabled in any way.

I think, perhaps, that such an all encompassing list of "disabilities" may actually do more harm than good. We've done the same in other areas. Far too many children are being "diagnosed" as ADHD and drugged. Anyone who feels the blues (or anything other than being happy-happy all the time, it seems) is told they are depressed and drugged up as well. Not only do these fad illnesses lead to harm as people are taking powerful, mind altering drugs they don't need to be on, but the people who actually *need* this help are instead buried under the mountain of convenience diagnoses.

How can we be helping truly disabled people who are being discriminated against, if suddenly almost everyone is considered disabled?

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