The world is populated with persons who are as varied as wines. Each subgroup of humans is like a cluster of grape varieties that grow on the vines. Sometimes we combine grape varieties and create a new type just as humans combine to develop unique varieties among us.
When humans are born, they require time to develop and produce a diversity of character traits, similar to wines which also develop through a process of fermentation that ultimately become the end product of wine. Through trial and error, new varieties are generated. Sometimes the mistakes in wine-making are distasteful or unpleasant to the palate. When this occurs, the batches are most likely discarded as unacceptable. However, when errors occur in humans, through genetics or mishaps, the end product may become a disabled individual. Should we as a society discard these people?
The question I may ask is, “Should I have been discarded as an unacceptable variety, as a flawed batch of wine might be?” I am impaired in ways that limit my learning, socialization, and activities, even as I attend college and attempt writing and other academic tasks. Many things that come easily to other students are very challenging for me. I am extremely shy, so much so to the point that this dis-ables me to communicate with instructors and peers. I have a very difficult time even holding a conversation. I cannot overcome this and the fear is disabling.
In social situations or group projects, many times I am dis-abled in figuring out what I need to say and how I need to say it. I am truly disabled in communication. However, I am able to ask for assistance when I need to or use interrelatedness of others to be successful. Although I am considered a disabled person, I am sometimes able to have success in education, with limits and support.
Would a person with a physical disability be able to attend college and be successful, as well? Disability in the context of education is not always a barrier; it is, however, always a challenge. My disabled-ness can be a limiting factor but does not have to be incapacitating. There are ways I can overcome the challenges.
The word chosen for this essay is Disabled. I chose this word because it has multiple meanings. The first known use of the word was in 1633 and a few of the meanings are from medical terms. The word was originated to help describe autism and other disabilities. Because I have a diagnosis of Autism, I am also labeled or identified as a disabled person, or flawed, as in a bad batch of wine. A disability may be physical, cognitive, mental, sensory, emotional, and developmental, or some combination of these. A disability may be present from birth, or occur during a person’s lifetime, perhaps as a result of an injury or accident.
The label “Disabilities” is really an umbrella term. This means it covers a larger array of impairments and limitations. These human imperfections can restrict persons from some activities. The definition, then, is complex because of the interaction between features of bodies, activities, and how society views the individual. Sometimes disabilities can be compared to developmental differences and perhaps these individuals may be perceived as castaways in society because of their imperfections.
The nature of people is to accept “normal” and reject “different.” The definition of disabled, as an adjective, in the context of myself would be: “Incapacitated by illness or injury; also: physically or mentally impaired in a way that substantially limits activity especially in relation to employment or education” (“Disability,” n.d.).
In “Disabled,” a War Poem by Wilfred Owen (1917), the poet related his own thoughts about being disabled as, “All of them touch him like some queer disease” and also, “Tonight he noticed how the women’s eyes passed from him to the strong men that were whole.” I believe that in his mind, he felt unacceptable and disabled in the eyes of others. He viewed himself as being discarded by others.
The word disabled has many synonyms, which include: challenged, differently abled, exceptional, impaired, incapacitated. The most common synonym of disabled is handicapped. One uncommon synonym that I don’t hear often is infirm. This word usually means someone in poor health or someone that is ill.
Antonyms for disabled, related to humans are: being healthy, in good physical shape, fit, or able. If a person were in good physical shape he/she would not have limitations like a physically handicapped person might. An unimpaired individual would not have differences that society may view as unacceptable.
In addition to synonyms and antonyms, other uses for the verb form of disabled can be related to non-working parts of a whole. For example, to disable a phone might mean to remove the battery or expose it to water. A bomb expert could disable an explosive by removing a part or cutting a wire. Another form of the word is to make something not useful. If a brake line or gas line to a car were cut, the car would be disabled and unworkable. If lightning strikes a power line, the electricity is disabled. When a power source is removed from a machine, the machine would stop working and be disabled.
A different way to use the term, disable, could be in the course of legal action. A court could prevent a legal right or decision-making and disable the opposing side’s power or actions. Even Superman’s powers could be disabled when he was exposed to Kryptonite. Anger disables Hulk from returning to Bruce Banner. Construction work on roadways is disruptive and disables the usual flow of traffic.
As you can see, there are many meanings for the word disabled. Most of them are adjectives for flaws or imperfections, especially as related to humans. Is it acceptable to discard these varied human members of society because they are seen as unfavorable in the eyes of some? Perhaps, as with unique kinds of wines, the imperfections can be deemed as exceptional and worthy of preserving, rather than of being discarded.
Human individuality, even disabled people, are similar to rare wine: they may be cherished and savored, rather than tossed out as ruined, unwanted and something to be discarded. Our perspective of others with differences should not always be viewed as disabled. Although I am a disabled person, I am unique and exceptional. I have gifts and talents that enable me to be loved and accepted by others. I may have flaws and imperfections but I should not be discarded as unfit or unacceptable. I would like to be savored and appreciated like a special variety of wine, waiting patiently in the rack to be chosen, uncorked, and enjoyed because of my exceptionality! May I offer a ‘toast’ to our differences!
Disability. (n.d.). In Wikipedia. Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Disability
Owen, W. (1917). In The First World War Poetry Digital Archive. Retrieved 04:17, March 21, 2013, from http://www.oucs.ox.ac.uk/ww1lit/collections/item/3302?CISOBOX=1&REC=4
Zakary Brock wrote this essay for Palabras back in May 2013.