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Tell Ms. Kelly your children are not embarrassed!

We received a comment from Sandra Scales-Siwek that deserves wider distribution:

On Nov 4, columnist Maquerite Kelly, in her Family Almanac column in the Washington Post ("Outings Will Help Grieving Daughters With Inner Feelings")
says that children with disabled parents are embarrassed:

Having a hospitalized parent is much more embarrassing to a child than is a working mom, because chronic illness is unusual, while working moms are the norm these days.

She goes on to recommend that the children be encouraged to remember the father "when he was young and virile."

"They knew him only as an invalid," she writes.


Through the Looking Glass tells us that nearly 9 million -- or 15 percent -- of all American parents are disabled -- it's not that rare! And how long have we fought to get beyond the attitude that a disability is a "stigma?"

Please send an email to Marguerite Kelly protesting her "advice." Send an email to the Washington Post's letters department, too, to say you are disappointed that they let such an attitude persist in one of their columnists.

And why not post a copy of your email in the comments section, below?


How's this, eh?

Dear Ms. Kelly,

I must take issue with a portion of the advice you recently offered to a mother for her grieving daughter. As a member of an organization that deals with dying and grief, and as a person who believes in the affirmation of human life, I find your reference to the woman's husband as "an invalid" -- and your assertion that having a hospitalized father is "embarassing" -- very insulting.

For semantics' sake, I will first dissect the word "invalid" -- an archaic term that means, literally, "not valid". When applied to a person with an illness or disability, it suggests that the person using the term sees people with disabling conditions as less worthy, less human.

The woman who wrote you for advice made no such reference to her own husband; she did not indicate that she herself saw him as anything but a husband, a father, a MAN. To suggest that she think otherwise, or presume her daughter should think otherwise, is offensive. The husband's illness and death, understandably, were and still are difficult for the family. But there is no reason to assume that the husband, during the course of his illness, was not a good husband or father, and no reason to assume that the daughter is suffering because of "embarrassment". It is much more likely that she misses her father.

Your column was brought to my attention via the Ragged Edge website, a source for people concerned about disability issues, including harmful myths and stereotypes that perpetuate discrimination against people with disablities. Its readers and supporters are many. MANY. And those who would protest the ideas you have presented in your column are not overly sensitive; they are acutely sensitive to the misrepresentation of some human lives as less precious than others. God forbid I ever call my husband "an invalid".


Evonne Acevedo

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