Yesterday afternoon there was a PTA meeting for the mothers of kids who are multiply disabled. There are about ten of us, and all of our kids are deaf and something different, i.e. one kid has Down Syndrome, one kid has diabetes and some sort of attention deficit disorder, and three or four fall somewhere on the autistic spectrum. My daughter is the only one in a wheelchair, though there is another kid with cerebral palsy who can walk but is developmentally disabled. We’re sort of marginalized at the deaf school, but we have our own little sub-group. During yesterday’s discussion, we looked over brochures of places that we might visit during summer vacation, as part of research. We are supposed to be thinking about our children’s futures (and we are, believe me). But I found the brochures depressing. There are all of these centers in out of the way places where disabled individuals bake bread or grow vegetables, or sort screws by size. Many of these places are residential. On the one hand, it’s reassuring to know that there are places where my daughter can work after she finishes high school. But on the other hand, working solely among others with disabilities would place her firmly on the fringes of society. I don’t want that for her. It sounds snobby in a way, but I don’t.
Yesterday evening, we watched TV en famille. There was a program about a beauty contest in the Netherlands – the Miss Ability Contest. These beautiful young women with various disabilities appeared on stage in evening gowns and bathing suits. My daughter became extremely hyper while viewing, clearly convinced that there is no need to ever learn to walk when one can cruise around in a wheelchair AND wear fabulous clothes. I’m not altogether comfortable with the notion of beauty pageants, and there was something a little bit freakish about parading these women (my prejudice?), but I couldn’t help thinking how extremely different things are in the West.