Treating NLD people with dignity

All people, whatever their abilities or disabilities, deserve to be treated with dignity. The free online dictionary defines dignity thus: The quality or state of being worthy of esteem or respect.

What does this mean when dealing with people who are learning disabled and, more specifically, when dealing with people who have NLD?

To me, it means recognizing the importance of  all three words in the phrase “Learning disabled person”. There are, then, two ways to fail to esteem and respect a person who is learning disabled: You can fail to recognize that we are people or you can fail to recognize that we are disabled. Often, people are so intent on avoiding the first error that they commit the second one. On another site, a teacher said that she didn’t think it should be called a learning disability. She made an analogy to blindess. She said that blind people could not see, but people with LD can learn. I certainly agree that LD people can learn and blind people can’t see. But blindness is not the only disability, even with regard to vision, and the disability of blindness is not just not being able to see, but not being able to get around the inability. Just as there are tools to help the blind (e.g. canes, seeing eye dogs, braille, etc). so there are tools to help people with LD. Yet this does not mean it is not a disability. Further, extreme nearsightedness is also a disability, even though such people can see.

When you deny that LD people have a disability, you disrespect us; you fail to treat us with dignity.There are things that most people can do with little difficulty that LD people can do only with difficulty or not at all. A blind person can learn to walk and avoid tripping or crashing, but cannot learn to drive in traffic.

One of the tricky parts of NLD is figuring out just what the person can do, cannot do at all, or can do only with difficulty. The person is, himself a good but not infallible guide to this.

Yet you must also not make the other error. LD people are people. Treating us or referring to them as if they were not is also failing to respect us.

This can be a difficult line to walk! But we didn’t make it hard for you on purpose.

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