To read on Syndrome Angelman website:
Today’s Society and Intellectual Disability by Aimé Ravel
liberal translation by: Charles de Broin
This is not a handicap like the others, it presents specific issues and forces us to think about ourselves and the society we wish for.
We do not need the Jews, anywhere, wrote Hans Frank, the Governor General of occupied Poland by the Nazis in December 1941. The implications of this statement are well known. Nothing can be compared to the Holocaust , the great « catastrophe » announced in Isaiah ( 10, 3 ) , but this event teaches us that when a social group orders a segment of its population useless, they are in great danger. No one knows the impact on society an attempt to save the Jews would have had if we would have all shouted loudly, something which we owed them. In the same vein, we cannot ignore today what people with intellectual disabilities contribute in an advanced society .
How do we define in simple terms intellectual disability? The need for support for activities requiring the normal functioning of human intelligence may be a simple answer. This is not a handicap as others. Technological advances offer hope that many people with disabilities gain greater independence ( the blind see through artificial retinas ), but a person with intellectual disability will always need a human which no technical support can replace.
So, what do people with intellectual disabilities bring to society? Their contribution to the quality of care is obvious. They suffer from varied and complex medical problems. However, they are often anxious or have a fragile nature which limits additional specialized testing. The process leading to their diagnosis is based on the careful observation and a complete physical examination. They express pain differently, it must be discovered. Many have limited to no speach. People responsible for them must be technically perfect, committed and capable of working in a multi-disiplinary team environment. This excellence benefits all concerned. On the other hand, pactitioners who declare themselves incompetent to deal with the disabled will not inspire confidence.
Their contribution to the quality of education is obvious. Teaching people to focus when they have limited capacity and who require longer time frames to process information requires analytical skills and imagination that can only shine on any school . This is also true of people who offer labor, transportation, catering, entertainment or accommodation to the disabled. Those are graceful dancers who work with mentally challenged youth, karate teachers who transmit values with passion for their art, educators who work night and day with elderly people with intellectual disabilities.
In a society where everything is fast paced and where direct personal relationships are rare, people with intellectual disabilities require those around them to listen, observe more closely and be touched. They anchor us in the relm of reality. They are eminently otherness. To be open to intellectual disabeled one must be distanced to all totalitarian thinking, be a model of benevolent society, preferring “la cité de l’amour de l’autre jusqu’au mépris de soi” (openess of love to your fellow man to the extent of putting aside selfness importance).
Intellectually disabled people help us to know ourselves better: what is human intelligence ? what is folly ? what produces happiness? They ask us about manypoints of law, philosophy , theology : what worth is the testimony of a personwith intellectual disability ? can their choices be theirs? how does one guage their responsibility ? Can they perceive the inigmas or truths of religion? what is the fervor of their prayer? what will be their image in eternal life?
Finally, people with intellectual disabilities provoke a permanent call to humility , who amongst us can truly say that they are beautiful, strong and intelligent because they deserve it? We are only responsible for our choices. The Bible compares the rich as a camel attempting to pass through the eye of a needle. It is not just money , it also aims at the quest of power , including the one that possesses a brilliant mind .
The intellectually disabled experience, on a daily basis, the greatest poverty that exists: not being able to understand as much and as fast as others. But society that comits to be in their service, is a source of great wealth both to them and society as a whole.