Apparently, New York State’s relatively new (pro-choice Democrat) governor, David Paterson, is blind. He’s also being mocked by Saturday Night Live in a manner that implies he is less than capable as a governor because of his blindness.
Paterson has responded by issuing a statement on what this kind of “humor” does to the disabled:
I would say that decidedly they ARE mocking my disability. And that apparently who is blind or deaf or has an ambulatory disability or any kind of physical affect that gets to a leadership position in this country is going to be portrayed as if a bunch of third graders are still ridiculing them, on Saturday Night Live.
Now, many of the commentors on the original ABC News article are saying “it’s just satire” or “he needs to lighten up.”
That’s the problem. It’s not “just satire.” One might challenge the appropriateness of satire as civil discourse in general. In either case, humor does not excuse cruelty. How *is* that any different then an elementary school bully saying, “I was just having some fun”?
What Paterson’s comments reflect–and the commentors have no awareness of–is the *constant*, lifelong treatment that disabled people get. I’ve experienced it in family parties, elementary school, CCD, middle school, high school, college, graduate school, and in being a teacher of high school and college students. I take that back. The high school students I’ve *taught* have probably treated me with the most respect (which is one of the reasons I’m considering teaching high school instead of college).
And the part that comes up is fantastic:
“there’s a 37 percent unemployment rate in the disabled community — 71 percent among the blind, 90 percent among the deaf — and yet these individuals performed by average higher in American institutions of education than their colleagues who are non-disabled. Meaning that we can educate these people but we couldn’t find work for them.”
Paterson said “one of the biggest problems finding work for the disabled are attitudes. And these programs which present themselves as comic relief in many ways are degrading people.”
Now, what surprises me is that the unemployment rate is that *low*.
But that basically sums up the problem.
“You have too many holes on your resume.” I have had so many interviewers tell me, in so many words, that they will not hire me because of my disability. There was the Regnum Christi school principal who said, “We like our teachers to have a certain air of authority.”
I’ve only gotten a couple jobs (and those mostly commission sales) where I’ve walked into the interview. The jobs I’ve gotten, which have involved live interviews, have almost always been jobs where I went to the interview in my wheelchair. One interviewer said, “I wasn’t expecting a wheelchair. When I saw all the holes on your resume, I was concerned. But, now that I see you’re disabled, I understand.” I got *that* one.
It’s also amazing how much better people treat me now, when I use my electric wheelchair.
But, for the most part, people treat you like scum when you’re disabled. You get judged by the same standards as everyone else. They see what you’re missing that someone else has. They don’t see how hard you’ve worked or what you’ve achieved in spite of your challenges and the odds . Employers don’t look for people to hire . They look for people to rule out.
And the disabled are easy to discriminate against.