I can’t say too much more than I’m quite sure you’d think after reading this article, appearing over at the Des Moines Register, titled “Company Accused of Exploiting Disabled; State Closes Home;”
“Henry’s paid the men a ‘handicap wage’ that is about half the typical salary of other employees. That reflects that these men, at least in theory, are not as productive as their nonhandicapped co-workers. It’s a controversial, but legal, process: With the permission of the U.S. Department of Labor, a company can pay subminimum wages to disabled workers who would otherwise not be employable.”
What? “Legal?” Seriously?
But, as repugnant as that is, what bothers me more when reading this article, or I should say what bothers me just as much as people being treated as slaves and “forced” to do “our” dirty work (which is severely problematic, in terms of the men’s physical/emotional safety and from a moral standpoint), is the way in which the “Register” used the word “retarded.”Â
Yes I’m quite aware what the term “retarded” means, but attending a high school which shared premises with a school for “special needs” students, I guess I’m a little more sensitive to how that term is, much too often, used.
I regret not being more open in that time of my life. But I digress.
I much prefer the term “disabled.”Â Sure it’s a tad vague and covers quite a lot of “ground,” but somehow it seems more dignified. And, most importantly, is its duty to underline “the social oppressions”1 a “challenged” individual encounters everyday.
“Obviously these labels are not value free, rather they mark physical or sensory differences and are charged with meaning. Some say labels aren’t so important. Wrong! In our hierarchicalÂ society it is the meaning of words that have power. […] [I]t is loaded with the faulty notion that it is the individual who is challenged to ‘overcome’ his or her disability, rather than society’s responsibility to overcome its prejudice against disabled individuals.”2
And the reasons for the continued existence of our modern “hierarchicalÂ society”Â are unjust assumptions, misconceptions, and outright lies. Or, more “succinctly,” that which is false;
“Most of the greatest evils that man has inflicted on man [not to mention that of non(hu)man] have come through people feeling quite certain about something which, in fact, was false”3
I guess the oftenÂ unforeseenÂ upside to terrible “news” such as this is, if we don’t drastically change our ways, it will all soon be over…
- 1 Marta Russell, Beyond Ramps, Page #14
- 2 Marta Russell, Beyond Ramps, Page #14
- 3 Bertrand Russell