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What happens when we shift our understanding of disability?

Speaker Norman Kunc presents at BACI GM
Thursday March 1, 2012 — Camille Jensen

Norman Kunc says if we shift our understanding of disability to recognize its normalcy, our entire view about people who have a disability will change.

The long-time disability advocate and speaker presented this message as part of his keynote presentation at the Burnaby Association for Community Inclusion’s (BACI) general meeting Feb. 21.

Norman, jokingly, let the audience know he has cerebral palsy. While it may seem obvious, he says he often encounters people who feel the need to tip toe around his disability, like he doesn’t know it exists.

Those types of actions are partly a result of how we view disability, says Norman. He asked the audience if we think it’s normal for people to have disabilities.

“What do you actually believe?” he challenged the group.

He says most people, even the best intentioned and committed, think that while a person may have a disability, it’s not really how they’re supposed to be.

“So the presumption is although I have cerebral palsy I wasn’t intended to have cerebral palsy therefore I am not the way I should have been,” says Norman.

If we accept that statement to be true, Norman says we’ve now located the problem in the person who has the disability. It’s partly why we spend so much time trying to “rehabilitate” people who have a disability. We want to make them “normal.”

It also means when we’re building ramps, elevators or fighting for inclusion, we think we’re doing these things to accommodate people who have a disability.

But what happens if we believed that it’s inevitable that some people will be disabled?

Norman says this statement accepts that people who have a disability are a natural part of life and have existed in all human civilizations.

When viewing disability in this way, we no longer see disability as a deficiency but part of the human condition. This in turn allows us to accept disability, and the different abilities each person brings to the world.

How would that change our actions? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.

Related Story:
Focus on opportunity not ability: Norman Kunc

If you have feedback on this article, please contact the newsroom at 800-294-0051, or e-mail camille(at)axiomnews.ca.

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One Response to “What happens when we shift our understanding of disability?”

  1. Jules March 1, 2012 at 9:16 am #

    Norm is awesome!

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