Since last year I have been working quite regularly with the Asia Europe Foundation (ASEF), following them on various conferences in different parts the globe. The one which stood out for me the most was the recent trip to Melbourne and Christchurch for the ASEF Summer University which had its focus on shaping inclusive societies for youths with disabilities. I met many people, some of whom are disabled as well as others who are living or working amongst people with disabilities. The stories I have come across and the people that I have met, left a deep impression on me.
Many thoughts are on my mind, and it will take some time to sort them out.
On one hand I have always believed that one should do all that is possible to alleviate the world of its pain and suffering, yet on the other, I have also seen how pain, even suffering can produce in a person great strength, courage and wisdom. I also wondered to myself if we should wish for a world where no one is disabled, and what such a wish might say about our perception of people with disabilities. Perhaps a better wish would be for a world that is more inclusive, where people of all types can find their place and purpose. Some people such as the American philosopher Elizabeth Barnes says that disability need not be considered a worse off difference but simply a mere difference. She has a book called the 'Minority Body' which I plan to read.
In another presentation, a short video clip that was shown stayed with me.(https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8K9Gg164Bsw) In the video, Australian comedian and disability rights activist Stella Young talks about how disabled people are often objectified as icons of inspiration by the media and culture. Because we do not experience disabled people, as our teachers, politicians, doctors etc, we only see them as objects of inspiration whose purpose is to make us feel better about ourselves. This is another form of exclusion and to me, a more cynical sort.