CHANGING SOCIAL STATUS
Stereotypes and misconceptions about people with disabilities continue to be promoted in the media through visual images and language. Numerous appeals to pity people with disabilities appear on telethons and other fund drives. The image of the helpless child who needs to be "cured" rather than accepted by society is the most glaring. The media more often refers to "handicapped people" or "the retarded" rather than persons with disabilities, focusing on their differences rather than their similarities with the rest of society.
Paul Longmore, a professor at San Francisco State University who studies disability issues and is himself disabled, has said, "Prejudice is a far greater problem than any impairment; discrimination is a bigger obstacle to overcome than any disability."
People with disabilities are arguing more vigorously than ever before to change their social status. More and more people with disabilities are asserting that non-handicapped norms don't work for them, that they must live their lives according to an alternative set of values, derived from the disability experience.
"What they prize," said Dr. Longmore," is not self-sufficiency but self-determination; not independence, but interdependence; not functional separateness, but personal connection; not physical autonomy, but human community."
The values identified by Paul Longmore are reflected in the personal stories of people with disabilities.
The following individuals have adopted these values and achieved their dreams of independent living...