We live in a world that continually tries to determine for us what a normal life, or even a good life, should be like. We must take a step back from this to ask ourselves, “who has the authority to determine this?”
I’m an Occupational Therapy student, with one year remaining until qualification. It’s a wonderful, young and client-centred profession that looks to promote health and well-being in all individuals through meaningful engagement. I’ve a deep love for serving people and collaborating with them to achieve their goals – to live out their lives to the fullest. One aspect I love deeply about the profession is its ethos; that everyone is equally valued and cherished. Each person has a right to have a meaningful engagement and there is a desire that each person has within them for this.
Over the years, I’ve heard comments, particularly about people with disabilities (of any kind, physical, mental etc.), that they can’t have a good life, or won’t live a ‘normal’ life. These comments thus suggest that these people are somehow so different from someone without a disability that they’re incompatible with society. It seems, we created a ‘one-size fits all’ society where if you don’t fit in, that’s your fault.
In the Occupational Therapy ethos, disability is not viewed as an ‘abnormality’ or ‘inconvenience’, rather, it’s a completely unique experience of life. How wonderful it is that we’ve such a variety of experiences. Who are we to say that someone doesn’t have a good quality of life, based simply on the difference of experience, or resources or skills? I can only judge what is a good life, for me, based on my own experiences. No matter how much I think I know, I will never understand the meaning of a life for another person.
Do we not all still have a desire and right to discover meaning in the little things in life, in the day-to-day affairs, to learn to overcome, to be who we are, and discover the limitless capabilities that each human being holds?
I’ve seen so many different people, from children with ASD, Down Syndrome or muscular dystrophy, to teenagers experiencing mental health difficulties, to older adults’ post-stroke, conquering the challenges lying in the everyday, and finding meaning in many ways – establishing a good life.
Pre-natal diagnoses should never be a reason to take away someone’s right to life. There isn’t a single health professional on this earth that is qualified to presume who will or who will not have a good life. That is for the person themselves to decide – always. For each unique person, a unique experience awaits them.
So rather than being a ‘one size fits all’ society, let’s create a universal society, shifting the environments to welcome anyone and everyone. With so many ways of living life, with it comes many valuable opinions and solutions to create a society that cherishes the rights and dignity of each person.