In Georgia, and very likely in all Caucasus, pity is still the first thing that comes to people’s minds, when they see someone with a disability. People with special needs are thought of as “the weak ones” or “the helpless”. A person with a disability is seen as being worth well less than others, as an object of charity.
As the changes in the education law propose, children with special needs have access to mainstream schools alongside their age group. This means that everyone has equal possibilities to learn. The problem is, however, that being in the same classroom with others is useless, unless the environment and the teaching methods are adapted to everyones personal needs. But it´s a start, which in the future will indeed lead to equal possibilities.
The change of attitude, however, is still far from changing. If the child with special needs is doing well in school it´s contributed to how well the others take care of them. If the child has friends in school it´s contributed to pity by their classmates.
A person who has a disability should not be defined by how they are different from others. In addition to the needs they have they may have a great personality, own sense of style and humour and a way to see and understand life. A person with special needs might also be annoying, rude, loud and unpleasant, but so can anyone. Having special needs doesn´t mean stupidity, naiveity and vulnerability. It means, that the person has a different experience of life than you. Not necessarily worse or better, just different.
Positive discrimination is the policy of favoring members of a disadvantaged group who are perceived to suffer from discrimination within a culture. And contrary to its name, it is not a positive phenomenon. For example, people with disabilities, who are given a job just because they have a disability, feel and understand that it is unfair, that they are treated differently and therefore are not equal to the people without disability.
This seems to be what is happening now. People with disabilities are not hidden anymore, so others become more aware, that there are those among us, who are differently-abled. They want to tolerant and accepting, and to show that, they overreact.
Instead of feeling sorry for the people with disabilities, to try to help them at all cost, you should first consider, if the person in front of you really needs your help. With appropriate education and equipment, people with special needs can lead happy and independent lives, just like you and me.
Talvike Mändla is an Estonian graduate with a degree in Special Education. She is currently volunteering on a one-year placement in Zugdidi, Georgia. You can read more of here work on her blog.