Disability Rights and Ignorant Internet Commenters

Filed Under (Uncategorized) by Emily on 07-09-2013

Hi. I know I haven’t written anything here for a while, but I was so fired up by something I read, I felt compelled to write. I apologize in advance if this article is too long. Yesterday, I read this article:

For those of you who have never read my blog, I am a senior Mass Comm. major at Morningside College. I am an outspoken, unashamed advocate for people with disabilities, particularly people with autism. I hope that this will be my legacy. I have a form of autism, Asperger’s Syndrome. Whenever I see articles in the news about autism, I usually read them. I come with my personal bias, admittedly. I am very interested in reading about families dealing with the challenges of autism on a daily basis, as I find these stories most relatable.

The article is about a 21 year old young man with severe autism who lives in California. Under the federal Department of Education , public school districts are required to provide free appropriate public education, or FAPE, to students with disabilities until they age out of the system. His mother has filed a complaint with a local office of civil rights. She says that her son was mistreated by a teacher at the public school he attends. The student, David, has a nurse that assists him at school because he has diabetes. The nurse vouched for the mother’s complaints, saying that she has witnessed on more than one occasion a teacher mistreating him. The school offered the mother $86, 000 to keep David out of the school district.

Here are my thoughts on the story, based on my personal experience of spending my teen years in the special education system. I know many parents and educators who are passionately dedicated to creating a successful school environment for their children and students. I My first impression of the school district is that they are paying the mother hush money. They don’t want to have a lawsuit on their hands, and they don’t want to admit that one of their teachers, quite frankly, ought to be fired.

According to the article, David sounds very pleasant natured. In fact, he reminds me of a young teen I know from my local Area Education Agency (AEA) autism group. I will call him Steve. I used to be afraid of Steve, because he is tall and heavyset. He used to pick me up in the air and I would have to explain to him that “some people do not like to be picked up without any warning.” After I had known Steve for a little while longer, I got used to his autism. I am tearing up a little when I think about how much joy Steve brings to our group. He is an expert on being himself-silly, boisterous, playful, energetic and sweet. His mother is one of the most patient people I have ever met. She and the many parents in the group are tireless advocates for their children.

In a world that promotes itself as being tolerant and modern, it is amazing to me what kind of disgusting, hateful venom people spew at each other on the internet. The comment section in the article about David really brought out people’s true colors, and it was ugly. Really ugly. A lot of the commenters were very quick to judge the mother, calling her lazy, saying that she “wants the school to be a babysitter”. Another brilliant idea that was frequently voiced was, “Why does my NORMAL kid have to be in school with someone like him?” Here are some more: “Why can’t they put these kids in a separate school?” “He’s going to be a useless burden to taxpayers.” “Some people just feel entitled to things. When MY children were in school, I took some responsibility!”

There were many other comments that I felt were so horrendously awful, I wouldn’t dare put them here. People in the disability community have to deal with a lot of ignorance. People are quick to judge, they make assumptions, and sometimes they ask rude questions or make rude comments. It comes with the territory. But then the commenters said: “Keep abortion legal and this problem will occur less often.”  “There is NO place for special children. Can you imagine what will happen if abortion was illegalized and the number of defective children increases exponentially?”

Those comments, the ones encouraging the killing of those who are different, remind me of someone. Hitler. I wonder how much worse WWII would have been if Nazis had been able to hide behind computer screens, spewing their anonymous hate for people whose only crime was being Jewish. The commenters need to remember, that one day, they will be judged by the way they have judged others.

To the commenters who have the nerve to criticize this mother: This woman cares about her son. She is going to bat for him, because he needs her to be his voice. Parents of children with special needs are some of the most compassionate, hard working people you will ever meet. I highly doubt that you would be able to survive one day in the shoes of this mother. Who is to say that you will never be affected by someone with a disability? You could get into a car accident and be in a wheelchair. Your loved ones or friends could someday have a disability. Maybe your own child might have a disability.

To the commenters and others who think that people with disabilities are useless and unimportant: We are important, and we do have a place and a purpose in this world. We are important to God, and to our friends and families. We are everywhere. We are deaf, blind, in wheelchairs, have autism and many other disabilities. We have different mental, developmental and physical challenges. We are not going away. Our voice is getting stronger, and we know we are not alone in our everyday struggles. We will continue to overcome our struggles, despite living in a world that says we can’t do it. We have changed this world, and we will continue to do so.

Matthew 25:40

New International Version (NIV)

40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’


Comments are closed.