Learning Disability Week. I have tried rolling the label, learning disability, around in my head but it seems oddly unnatural, like a man made fibre, synthetic, discordant and contrived. I tried saying it out loud to my daughter, she shrugged in a non plussed kind of way, if she could talk she might have said, ‘whatever’
I never think of my daughter as having a learning disability. She is just herself, kooky, funny and pretty.
It is just another label and labels have their uses in these days of services and rationed care. It is amazing how the doors open, a chink with learning disability, a bit more with profound and multiple learning disability and a whole lot more with complex health needs. There are even different sets of doors for different sets of labels.
However, these are labels that decry the individuality of the wearer. Wouldn’t it be lovely if my daughter was just the beautiful woman with the fantastic smile, or her friend the one with sticky up hair, or another, the one who is going off to study gardening next year.
I grew up in a village where people had their labels, Billy the Di(ver), Johnny the post(man) Wee Mac( my very small father). They were nothing more than descriptors, a kind of genial nick name with a bit of information to aid recognition.
However, in this strange world we inhabit we accept different labels, nonsense labels, hierarchical labels, category defining labels to use as a passport into a world that is structured, fragmented and controlled. At its most nonsensical we play out these labels like a sick version of disabled top trumps. Each one with a currency that no one can quite define.
Maybe I should celebrate that today’s labels are less offensive than those of the past, or maybe I should simply celebrate a week dedicated to raising awareness of those with learning disabilities, but what I find difficult to celebrate is that these labels are still needed at all.