Submitted by Avi Laird, Low Vision Coordinator
The old worlds of Egyptians, Hebrews, and others allowed a person being persecuted to have protection within their borders, away from those who would do them harm. This passed into Greece, where asylum was often granted in various alters and churches, to be adopted later by modern church and state. And this, in several cases, was good and righteous.
In this same time, we find that people with disabilities were quite misunderstood, and what was unknown, or scary, had people placed in places away from harm: in asylums.
People with Epilepsy were said to be possessed by demons fighting to get out. A young lady, who had suffered abuse, was said to have been “tempted by the devil,” to cover up an inconvenient pregnancy. People would be placed in an asylum because others did not take the time to understand what was going on with the person who had a mental or physical disability. Maybe, a son would be left to inherit, and he was a “demon spawn,” instead of morally placing the blame where it belonged; there were easy answers.
These were to be places to care for those who could not, for whatever reason, care for themselves. Or so they claimed.
Asylums sold tickets; and people viewed those who were suffering at the hands of “those who know best” as they continued to mistreat, experiment, and drug people into frenzy or submission.
The care of these people was placed in the hands of those who would be responsible for their well-being in every way possible. It did not matter if a person had a disability or not, everyone was placed together, and many were turned from humans into something else: subjects.
Although true, without this, some medicines would not have been discovered as quickly; it does not excuse the mistakes of the past.
We feel relief knowing it was in the past. Here and now, we do not think like that, we do not stereotype or discriminate in that manner.
But let us stop and think – maybe for a minute or two… is this true? Does your haunted house look like an asylum? Instantly, asylum equals scary. Why? Does it have scary monsters, movie characters, something of fantasy? Or does it show people with physical or mental illness as scary? What of that scary TV show on cable? Or that scary movie everyone wants tickets to see?
History is again repeating itself: instead of trying to understand people with disabilities, we are again being misunderstood, shown to be scary, and displayed – for a price…