Two Ways to Look at It

June 11th, 2011 by Kel Smith | Filed under Attitudes of Disability, Media Coverage, Nature of Disability

On May 25, 2011, the New York Times Magazine ran a cover story on two young twins conjoined at the head. Below are two responses which appear in this week’s Letters to the Editor section:

The tone of the article is upbeat; let’s call it American optimism in the face of any challenge. There is no discussion of the deeply troubling loss of autonomy, the denial of a freedom that is a part of maturation and the agony that these young women will certainly face. While their lives could give some insight into neuronal connectivity, it is an experiment that never would have been approved by any ethics committee, not for laboratory animals, much less for human beings.

AI R,
Encinitas, Calif., 10:04 p.m., May 25, nytimes.com

People with disabilities do things every day that able-bodieds would no doubt find difficult, yet we are treated as weak; forced adaptation breeds intelligence, yet we are treated as dumb; being disabled gives one a unique perspective, yet we are treated as having nothing to offer. Society is completely blind when it comes to living well with disability. This is why people say things like “I would kill myself if that were me”; “shouldn’t a baby with a disability be aborted, because they will have a poor quality of life?”; and even “they’re so inspirational!” (which is said because, gee, they’re so great to keep on going with their obviously horrible life). You can have a major disability and live well — people do it all the time, as these two girls demonstrate.

LAURIE C,
Marina, Calif., 2:22 p.m., May 26, nytimes.com

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