Monday, April 1, 2024

Assume Disabled People Can Do Better Than Being Killed By a Doctor

By Meghan Schrader

Meghan Schrader
Meghan is an autistic person who is an instructor at E4 Texas - University of Texas (Austin) and an EPC-USA board member.

There’s a terrific commercial making the rounds right now called “Assume That I Can,” created in recognition of World Down Syndrome Day. (Link to Youtube video)

In it, a young woman with Down Syndrome lists all of the enjoyable adult things that people assume she cannot do-like drinking a margarita, living on her own, learning Shakespeare, having a job, going to parties and having sex. And, because people assume that she cannot do those things, they never give her the opportunity to do them, so she never does them. As she puts it, “your assumptions become reality.” She tells the audience to “assume that I can, so maybe I will” lead a full, independent adult life.

It’s an awesome commercial, and it led me to reflect on how people’s low expectations about people with disabilities lead to disabled people dying by euthanasia. People in power assume that being dead is a good solution to being disabled, so they legalize suicide for the disabled, and so disabled people wind up dying by suicide. Society’s nihilistic assumptions about death and disability turn into someone’s reality.

The aforementioned commercial could have easily mentioned euthanasia as one of the consequences of society having very low expectations for what reality disabled people will experience (though that might make the commercial less fun to watch.) 


Euthanasia is a very extreme manifestation of the same kind of thinking that leads to disabled people not having jobs, never learning complex academic material, never drinking margaritas and never having sex. Unfortunately some people who don’t think disabled people should be able to lead full lives think that we don’t deserve an equal opportunity to live at all, or they act as though that they have no duty to create social conditions that will help us live, which is the kind of thing that happens when you ignore, dehumanize and oppress members of a disenfranchised group.

As a teacher of people with intellectual disabilities, who is also disabled, watching that commercial reminded me of how frustrating it is for me to hear my students recount the same experiences I and the young woman portrayed in the video have had. My students sometimes graduate from Special Education placements where teachers didn’t try to teach them much at all, their parents have had to sue people to get necessary disability supports, they are expected to work menial jobs, and they experience bullying from the people around them. And, now, in Canada (Link to article) and the Netherlands
(Link to article), those same kinds of individuals have to live in a world where doctors and the government suggest that they die by suicide/homicide. And those suggestions become some disabled people’s reality.

But, in the post secondary program I teach atwe assume that disabled people can do better than being killed by a doctor. We train our students to do jobs that pay at least $15 an hour. We have a healthy relationships course in which students learn how to have safe romantic relationships if they want them. Our students learn to live in their own or with a roommate; we help them find internships, jobs and housing in the community. I teach our students about ethics so that they can learn critical thinking skills and how to make healthy decisions between right and wrong. We encourage our students to expose themselves to the fine arts and take themselves to social events. That’s the reality that our students deserve, not the reality of being helped to die by suicide.

So, everyone, assume that with the right support, people with disabilities can drink margaritas and have jobs and live on our own and have sex. Assume that you have the responsibility to provide that support. Fund programs in Canada, the US and worldwide that empower people with disabilities, like the Canada Disability Benefit. Assume that people with disabilities can do better than being killed by their doctors, so that your assumptions become reality.


SEA STOPPER (TM) said...

Please send this article to PM Justin Trudeau, Health Canada and CPSO , marked "URGENT"

Anonymous said...

As a mom of a young woman on the autism spectrum, I am appalled at the pervasive attitude in Canada towards the disabled and mentally ill. We seriously underestimate the disabled and don't help those with mental health issues. Instead, we offer them MAID, like their lives aren't worth anything. There's that old saying "God doesn't make junk."

Thank you for your article, Meghan.

Anonymous said...

Meghan, you are amazing and your courses should be taught everywhere!Do multiply yourself!