What is normal? Ask 100 people, get 100 answers.
The truth is, there is no such thing as “normal,” and that fact becomes more evident each and every day. We constantly hear about “normalizing” disabilities, especially for children, by making them more visible, more acceptable, and more a part of everyday life. And somehow, this equals “normal”.
“Normal” is an arbitrary concept. Like I said, anyone you ask to define “normal” will give an answer different from the person you asked before, and the person you ask after. “Normal” is arbitrary and relative. Normal for me is not the same as normal for you, and vice versa. So how can we “normalize” anything?
Who gets to determine what makes normal, normal? Whom do we elect to that position? I’d hate to see that campaign season. And can you imagine the backlash that would ensue once the guidelines for “normal” are put into place? It’d be crazier than an NRA meeting after a mass shooting.
Disabilities cannot be “normalized;” not because they are outside the spectrum of normalcy, but because they run the gamut in how they affect people, and in how they are perceived by society at large. Disabilities cannot be “normalized” until society makes everywhere easily and equally accessible to anyone, regardless of ability. That’s the social model of disability.
As long as a child sees people being denied entrance, being redirected to a different pathway, or in other ways sequestered from the whole of society, we can’t even begin to get close to “normal.”
Segregation and the Civil Rights Movement has already proved that “separate but equal” doesn’t work. Some will argue that people with disabilities just want special treatment, which is untrue. As a whole, people with disabilities want nothing more than to be allowed to contribute to society, to have access to the same services, entertainments, and community activities as anyone else, and to be allowed to pursue their own idea of “normal”.
It is important to mainstream children in schools if they are able to be mainstreamed. I was one of the lucky ones. Despite popular belief, my physical disability had no affect on my mental capacity, and may even have aided it, in that injuries allowed ample time for reading, creativity, etc. Therefore, I was able to participate in mainstream public school education from kindergarten through grade 12, and then attended a quality university. To my peers, it was “normal” to see me on campus, because they had no reason to believe I shouldn’t be there.
That’s the relativity of “normal”. The strange thing is, abnormal is also relative. For the people who know me, it is abnormal to see me denied access or activities that they take for granted. For strangers, it is abnormal to see me participating in “normal” society at all.
So, again I ask, how can we “normalize” disability, when we can’t even normalize normal?