This is another post inspired by a week of work related events. In this case I spent the day conducting surveys at a self-advocacy conference as part of our planning process. Something that struck me was how often it was mentioned that people had to be more kind and understanding or something else about how people had to change. This of course isn't something that is easily fixed by policy, people are what they are. After this first, impossible, request however, they often got into particulars where we could put in some work and effort to make a real difference.
Being always obsessed with national and international politics I couldn't help but think that this is basically the exact same thing that people keep saying we need to do to make politics work better. I keep hearing that all we need is for people to be better, more personally responsible, more involved, more giving, etc. Here's where I think people with disabilities tend to be wiser. They don't think there's some simple fix to this, people are what they are and it's hard to change. They realize that changing minds and attitudes takes hard work and that to work at all it has to start early and continue for a long time. They also realize that many people don't naturally possess the skills they need to be successful, learning these skills takes hard work and effort and won't happen on its own if we step back.
I think there are a few different things that make attitudes different. No one is writing books justifying the prejudices of people with disabilities, they learn early that there are all kinds of people in this world and everyone won't magically start behaving how they would like others to. They don't have the luxury of cocooning themselves in environments where the world seems to do nothing but confirm their worldview and condemn that of others. They also learn how much of a difference the right kinds of interventions can make. They get to see up close what happens when something works and what happens when something doesn't, so they often have strong opinions on exactly what they see happening, rather than based on some vague theory they heard on the radio or read in a book once.
I find this attitude to be generally better for actually making change happen. No one is pretending that just changing faces is the critical element, this has happened too often to no avail. People need to learn to think differently and the environment needs to change to make this new thinking possible. This takes time, it takes education, it takes broad change in many areas, and there are no simple fixes. Blaming our problems on others doesn't help, there are all sorts of people, some of them difficult to work with, and this won't ever change. The problem isn't making the problem people go away but instead building systems that can include everyone as they are since there is no way of making people into what we want them to be. Learn to build with what we have rather than thinking you can fix people. People don't need to be fixed and you can't punish or reward them into become the people you want them to be. You can change the systems within which they live their lives so that everyone can be the most they can be however.