Friday, January 27, 2012
A lot has been written lately about the frictions and diversity of different groups in Israel. But one group has truly been the victims of intolerance and blanket generalizations : those with intellectual disabilities. If a person with intellectual disabilities gets on a bus, chances are big that the seat next to him will remain unoccupied. People consistently stare at Ricki. People consistently talk to her either in a condescending voice, or they speak to me instead. Adults with intellectual disability are NOT children. They are adults with a difference. People with Down syndrome are NOT all happy, smiling , angelic folks. Teens and adults with a smaller intelligence deserve to be spoken to with respect, and be related to as an individual. They deserve the right to work. They deserve to have chances to give back to the community as well. Recently (about a month ago), I was at a conference in Jerusalem held by orthodox organizations which support people with varying disabilities. I noted with surprise and pleasure that things I dreamed about 14 years ago are finally becoming available for those who have a disability. Marriage. Adapted college classes. Our community has made a lot of good strides over the last decade. But while people running many of Israel’s disability programs seem to have learned to think “out of the box”, I am sad that the average man in the streets still does a lot of stereotyping of those who are different from themselves.