Friday, March 24, 2017

Special needs?

I have mixed feelings about the video about Down Syndrome Awareness that's made rounds lately on social media. In this video, Lauren Potter notes the key needs of people with Down Syndrome - jobs, education, housing, friends, love - and asks the viewer, "are these special needs?" When you frame it that way, no, of course, they aren't - but at the same time, it's important to recognize that some of us have needs that must be met a bit differently. So in a sense, there is a "special" component to those needs.
For instance, it's not special to need housing. All humans do! But I specifically need housing without stairs, and may eventually need other adaptations if my condition changes. Framing this as non-special means I risk having less access to the units that are suitable for me, when accessible or adapted housing units ought to be allocated to people whose disabilities necessitate that sort of infrastructure. Similarly, I need to rest, like every other human. That's not "special" either. But the degree to which I need to rest, and thus have flexibility in my working hours, is special - or at least, it's in excess of what is expected of most people of my age. The rhetoric of "not special needs" is important in breaking down the stigma that excludes many disabled people from opportunities. However, we cannot take things too far: if we flatten out our differences, we risk people assuming that we don't need to have our own needs met in an individualized manner; we obscure the need for additional funding for accessibility initiatives and individualized care.

No comments: