Society is your “special treatment.”

Every week lately I encounter a story that attacks the “special treatment” that the disabled receive. Whether it’s attacking the way that those with disabilities are “allowed” to skip queues, make more disruptive noises or movements than others, or in areas such as employment or education. I’ve seen counterattacks of course, where other writers have pointed out that this isn’t “special treatment,” rather it is a way of reaching meaningful equality, or that these allowances for the disabled are a product of the difficult and misunderstood lives of the disabled (whereby it’s not so much about equality as it is about deserved benefits for difficult lives).

By Evan Leeson, via Flickr

I don’t see those counterattacks making much headway though; all I see is those already aware of the inequalities and difficulties of being disabled, supporting the arguments we’re already well aware of (which is not to say the counterattacks are worthless, it’s good to be reminded why we at times treat the disabled differently). Well I’m going to take a different approach to try to get through to those who think the disabled don’t deserve “special treatment” in so many areas of daily life. And maybe I’ll fail too, but I think it’s an under-appreciated point by the majority of society:

For the non-disabled people of this world, society is their special treatment.

The rules we create and how we disseminate them; the social expectations we hold of each other and the way we enforce them; the way employment is gained, held and sought; the way education is made available and experienced, and the results of that education tested and regarded. Life in this society is already set up to advantage those who don’t need the advantages; the non-disabled majority.

Beyond the most basic set of rights (and even those are still being fought for the world over), there is nothing pre-determined or un-artificial about the way we structure our society; that much is obvious by the way different cultures, in different countries, over the centuries, have chosen to run themselves. There is little that is not actively created about society and the way society is run and experienced. Guess what mass majority populace? It was created to make your lives easier and convenient. That’s your special treatment that you simply take for granted. As soon as another group – usually a disadvantaged group – wants society restructured to be more inclusive or responsive to the realities of those trying to exist within it, you label that “special treatment” as if what already exists is somehow perfectly as it should be.

This world is far from perfect. And a society that expects and requires its most vulnerable citizens to either adapt or stay at home locked up because they’re too noisy or a nuisance or too hard to accommodate, is a deeply imperfect society. Instead of telling the disabled to stay out of the mainstream of life – the restaurants, parks, events and schools that were created with their and their families’ money and time too – how about you take the challenge as an opportunity to make society better.

Because a society set up so that it provides “special treatment” to those who least need it, is a society that desperately needs to change. And a society where people dismissively label attempts to bring real equality to the disabled, as “special treatment,” are people who need to confront personal change for the better too.

This entry was posted in Attitudes to Autism and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to Society is your “special treatment.”

  1. Matty Angel says:

    Thank you for sharing :)!!

  2. nikki says:

    Very right. I admit having finally understood very recently the difference between ‘equity’ and ‘equality’. If we are a society that has the premise to “give everyone a fair go” (that’s such a washed out phrase lately here in Australia, but never mind now), we have to give those who are disadvantaged the actual extra support to enable an actual fair outcome. (This is not only true for disabled people, but also for all other members of our society that are identified as disadvantaged.) I am thinking from the moment where some cavemen decided not to leave an injured, limping warrior behind and he turned out to be great at cutting stones into weapons or maybe just a great story teller, our understanding of what is a ‘weak member’ of society has changed and evolved. Well, in theory.

  3. grahamta says:

    This was wonderful. Sharing.

  4. Thanks for the comments and support, grahamta, Matty, and nikki 🙂

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  6. autisticook says:

    This is one of the best explanations of privilege that I’ve ever read.

  7. Pingback: privilege | autisticook

  8. Sheogorath says:

    This reminds me of when I applied for Britain’s Got Talent in 2009. I had been told to be at this place in Manchester for 6PM, and I twice went up to someone to ask how long the average wait to audition was. It wasn’t that I couldn’t wait, I could because there was sufficient seating so I wouldn’t have to sit next to anyone I didn’t know and I had my MP3 player with headphones to block out the noise. I just don’t like waiting with no clue of how long I will have to. So I asked what the average wait time was, and on the second occasion, got ushered straight through. This might have p###ed off Neurotypical people, but the woman I spoke to must have taken an executive decision for which I was in no way responsible.

  9. Jackie Yoshi says:

    Have you heard about the controversy over Disney’s new disabilities policy, changing from the Guest Assistance Card to the Disability Access Services card? A lot of people on the net I’ve spoken to have claimed the new system which has a disabled person wait outside the line for approximately the same amount of time they’d be waiting in line makes it fairer to neurotypical able-bodied people. Many people claiming the GAC was a front of the line pass, which was false, and acting like disabled people should be happy to get any assistance at all.

    So many people didn’t understand the need for services were because some neurotypical able-bodied can’t behave themselves. It’s interesting how the behaviors of Autistic people are discussed in behavioral terms like getting upset is having a meltdown. Yet I see neurotypical people having “meltdowns” and getting understanding for it. What’s the difference between a screaming Autistic person and a screaming neurotypical person when it comes to being “burdensome”? If anything more neurotypicals act out vs Autistic people who can’t help it at times. Maybe we should just have people who cannot behave themselves in line regardless of neurotype wait outside the line as a means of discipline?

    I’m tired of the notion those of Autism are asking for more, when we’re trying to function despite neurotypical people getting away behaving in all the ugly ways they claim Autistic people do.

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