A loud ovation, someone runs the show, or maybe many; others rather watch and in the end just a few understand the dimension of the spectacle. The artist, drunk by the success, smiles and accepts the claps as if they were honest.
Little by little, the people around remove their masks with offences and mockery. She never noticed that the improvised audience cheered her lack of intonation or her incontinence to hold the saliva inside. The mental disability of this spontaneous singer was the reason of the cheering.
All happens on a constipated bus where a lady that travels almost everyday carries her limitations with her. A group of insensitive passengers bothers her and she starts screaming.
During an hour trip, were heard obscenities followed by vulgar laughter.
On a corner some youngsters drink alcohol and offer it to some other youth but with a mental disorder. The more he drinks, the happier they get. Hours later, a misunderstanding the wrath of some unleashes and the last one to react received the blows. He never understood what happened.
Mockery of people with disabilities weighs as much as physical violence or ignorance. Its name is discrimination and it is very common at a social level. The scenes previously described are recurrent in the national context and yet they are considered noble.
The term “normal” has become homogeneous. A person is normal when fulfils the standards set centuries ago. The rest are called the minority and the have endless names, usually pejorative, that will not be reproduced in this article.
The Cuban state penalizes discrimination “of race, color of the sking, gender, origin, religious beliefs and any other damaging the human dignity”. In that regard, it is necessary to review the aforementioned type of discrimination and which other regulations penalize those events.
In Cuba, people are educated as equals, says the Constitution. There are no distinctions to access public services, the intellectual quotient of people is not questioned to receive medical treatment or go to a beach. Special schools create programs to develop skills and therefore independence.
Nevertheless, the details that are hidden and therefore cannot teach cause a more evasive exclusion, absent in laws or textbooks. In the streets and sometimes at home, people with mental disabilities have the worst barrier, when the rest thinks they cannot be part of the society without being the clowns of the true disabled, those emotionally empty.
Some people with severe cognitive limitations manage to be independent I many situations. The fields damaged are communication, skills to live in groups, academic problems, self-care, work... However, training in time reduces some of these consequences.
So, the answer is equality instead of mockery or pity. To say no to physical stigma should always be the message at all social and institutional levels.
Men and women with mental disabilities have parks, buses, streets, dreams. They live under the same sky and share the same air that we do. The appreciate art, mathematics, candies, glasses, the beach or the birds.
The difference is perhaps in their way to think and react. The difference is, perhaps, the way to notice sarcasm, joy or global warming, but they can feel the heat, the cold, sadness, joy. They are not that different, just themselves.
About the Author
Licenciada en Periodismo en la Universidad de Pinar del Río Hermanos Saíz Montes de Oca