Who is working "For" People with Disabilities?

According to the Adweek article, Lowe’s is pulling out as an advertiser for the reality show "Big Brother" after a cast member made   disparaging comments toward people with Autism.


Adam Janinski said he hoped to win the competition so he could open a hair salon "so retards can get it together and get their hair done."


He claims it is ok for him to say such negative comments because he works for the United Autism Foundation of Florida.


The comment was met with a denouncing response from another cast member, but more importantly with swift action from advocates for people with Autism. I am sure some will debate whether the loss of Lowe’s as an advertiser is a strong enough penalty or even whether a penalty is warranted.


The incident should prompt service organizations and agencies to question who they are hiring and what message is promoted by the organization as well as their employees. As I read the story, it brought to mind a dichotomy that exists in the way people serve, treat,and even think about people with disabilities.


Mentality of the "For"…


Two types of organizations exist both working to serve various interests pertaining to the visually impaired and blind community. Organizations "for" and "of". The latter usually consists of members of the community. Usually denoting  an advocacy organizations steered and governed  by people with some degree of visual  impairment. “For“, on the other hand, usually implies government agencies or not for profit service organizations providing specific services to the blind.


Direct  experiences with service agencies has made me realize  the two words often signify a way of thinking and a belief system as it applies to the blind.

Many of those providing services like orientation and mobility training  and rehabilitation services often project an attitude of superiority  and sympathy. "What would these poor blind people do without this organization?" I have even  heard of these individuals referring to their services as a privilege and not a right. Essentially, letting the newly blinded person know they should stay in their place and be quiet and happy with what they have.

I am sure this state of mind  is not specific to blindness, but rather evident throughout the disability community.


While CBS and others need to be more responsible, the larger issue is the treatment of  people with disabilities and the attitudes of  those working  “for” them.

One Response to “Who is working "For" People with Disabilities?”

  1. Terena says:

    Wow. That is incredible. Unfortunately not surprising, but still shocking.

    I know what you mean about the “superiority” and “sympathy” problem. I have been an advocte for families with Special Needs children for over ten years and I am continually angered by organizitions who seem to think people with disabilities would be “lost” without them. The system sets up these families to remain dependent, and my primary focus as an advocate was to help the families and children understand they themselves have the power in their lives, not the agency.

    My own child is visually impaired and that’s how I became an advocate. Early on, when I was struggling with the emotional impact of coping with a toddler who was “disabled,” another parent advocate asked me, “What do you want for your child?” It was the first time any one asked me and it was so empowering. I finally understood that I could make choices for my child and help her learn to make choices for herself. Asking that question is the first thing I do when I work with a family struggling with the demands of raising a child with “special needs.”