Why do we ignore disability?

A look at the reasons why disability does not receive the necessary attention in our societies by José "Pepe" Macías.

A photo of three green stuffed frog puppets, sitting next to each other, one covers his ears, the second his eyes and the third his mouth.n

According to the WHO, approximately one in seven people in the world live with some form of disability; the number is increasing dramatically and the vast majority of us will experience disability in the course of our lives.

And yet, it is an issue we have managed to ignore very successfully.

How often do you interact with a person with a disability? How often do you see a person with a disability in any advertisement, commercial, movie or series? How many people with disabilities do you see when you are out at the movies, in a store, in a theater, in a school or in the workplace?

I'm afraid the answer, in most cases, will be "very rarely."

My position is that we ignore disability by system, unconsciously, and I have three answers to the question that titles this article.

  1. We don't see what we don't value.

    We live in societies where we are given value according to our level of production. And our level of production is linked to our level of capabilities.

    This is utilitarianism - we place value on people based on how useful they are to us. And this is ableism - society is designed so that only the "most able" live better.

    We were trained to value each other based on return on investment - what do I gain by generating a social bond with you?

    It's logical: no one wants to be relegated, so we try to keep ourselves useful and capable. And that becomes difficult - almost impossible - when you have a disability and live in a system designed for "normal capabilities".

  2. Because no one wants to be irrelevant

    In the vast majority of cases, disability condemns you not only to diminished physical, mental or sensory capacity, but also to social irrelevance.

    Do you hire services or consume a product that comes from people with disabilities? How often do you need the support of a person with a disability?

    Very rarely do people with disabilities participate equally in the social exchange that goes on in basic activities such as work, leisure, education, interpersonal relationships, etc. And that is to be socially irrelevant.

  3. Because seeing disability head-on reminds us of our fragility.

    We are immersed in a fierce competition of 24/7 production, a social Darwinism where only the "strongest" will accumulate more, will have more achievements, more success, and more sense of power.

    It is a natural social and economic selection, and disability reminds us that inevitably one day we will cease to be the strongest, and we will be thrown out of the race. 

My three responses flow naturally from the social Darwinism we practice that is not about protecting each other as a species, but about protecting ourselves as individuals or caring only for our closest circle.

The human species continues in a runaway race with a diffuse goal, without realizing that we have already reached such a level of progress that would allow us, a large part of the population, to live with security and dignity, to take care of ourselves and protect others, if and only if resources were administered equitably.