Discrimination is a very real problem that still exists in today's society. There are many forms of discrimination and unfortunately, most of them are alive and well. One form of discrimination that occurs is rarely talked about openly. But it occurs probably just as often as gender or race discrimination. No one wants to admit that when they see a handicapped person, they immediately feel embarrassed.
The embarrassment a "normal" person feels usually leads to avoidance. Avoidance is one form of discrimination. Treating a disabled person like they are not there is probably the most common insult that they receive. No one is comfortable when they are suddenly avoided. The same thing happens if someone notices another person's gaze suddenly shift to something else.
Did you know that disabilities affect one-fifth of the American population? Only one-third of the disabled are people above the age of 65. Disabilities vary; there are several hundred different types of disabilities. Some are birth defects; others come with the onset of age and still more happen at some point during the life of the afflicted person. With these statistics, you might think that people would be more accepting of people with disabilities. Unfortunately, that is not the case.
A comment made by President Barrack Obama has thrown the difference between the disabled and the normal, into light, once again. The fact that someone as high ranking as the president can use a derogatory statement about his bowling being as bad as special Olympics, is a sign of how people perceive the handicapped. Even though it was supposed to be a "joke", it only adds to the problem.
The Special Olympics were created for disabled people to give them a chance to be like everyone else. It is sad that the world still holds such contempt for organizations like Special Olympics, who have real goals and wish to help those who are different. Because the people who play for the Special Olympics are different, they are feared and therefore made fun of. They are treated with forced politeness, or as though they cannot do anything for themselves.
You have probably heard all the derogatory terms, or even used them yourself. Sayings, such as "That is retarded", are created from those derogatory terms. In schools, people tease the handicapped relentlessly, or treat them as something lesser. If anyone uses the term "Special Education" it is automatically linked with "retarded". The most common reaction toward people who are disabled is, believe it or not, embarrassment. People are embarrassed for them. People are embarrassed because of them. Finally, people are embarrassed for noticing the disabled for what they are: disabled.
The strangest part of the whole scenario is that almost every disabled person has a gift that is unmatched in a non-disabled person. They excel far more than the average "Joe". They also work harder than their "normal" counterparts do. They are fiercely loyal and are true friends. Nevertheless, few "normal" people even give them the chance to be anything except stereotypes.
America needs to be more understanding of the plight of those who are disabled. The discrimination of disabled people is just as important as those of race or gender. However, few people are even aware of how their actions affect the handicapped. Good, caring people are avoided simply because they use a wheel chair, a white-tipped cane, or look different from those around them.
By avoiding those with disabilities, you are actually alienating yourself from someone who is incredibly special. No one likes having a derogatory label. Words have an amazing power over humans. Kind words can make friends. Harsh or ill-used words can destroy any possible friendship.
"Whoever created the saying "Sticks and stones my break my bones, but words can never hurt me," has never heard a harsh word spoken." Unknown Author.