In a world full of “smartphones” and “smart watches,” it’s no surprise that “smart onesies” exist. While “smart onesies” cannot track how far babies crawl or alert them to needing diaper changes, the onesies are able to help babies develop motor and cognitive skills.
According to an article in the Huffington Post, “smart onesies” were developed specifically to be a means of early intervention for babies with Cerebral Palsy (CP). As a person with CP, I understand the importance of early intervention and believe therapeutic and surgical intervention can improve a person’s quality of life. However, in my opinion, such forms of intervention should only be utilized when medically necessary.
The Huffington Post article details how “smart onesies” have sensors that allow doctors to monitor brain activity, are attached to babies via a harness, and are coupled with the use of a skateboard-type-crawler which helps to promote early movement. Such onesies have helped babies as young as two months old have the best start in the life, according to the article.
While a “smart onesies” sounds good in theory, as a disability advocate, I find the message promoted through such onesies to be offensive. With all due respect to the biomedical engineers and physical therapists who developed “smart onesies,” the idea that babies with CP must be hooked up to harnesses and have their brain activity monitored to have the best start in life is completely ridiculous.
“Smart onesies” are one of many quick “fixes” or cures that promise a “normal” life for people with disabilities promoted in a world saturated by miraculous technological and scientific advances. Unfortunately, society being bombarded by such messages has perpetuated the belief that people must be able-bodied and “normal” to live a worthwhile life.
As an employed, married, home-owning woman with CP, I am living proof that people do not have to be able-bodied to fulfilling life. I currently spend my days advocating for others with disabilities through writing and working at a non-profit which helps people with development disabilities gain independence and live the lives they choose. I became the person I am today because while growing up my mother always told me that even with my disability I could do whatever I set my mind to. I became the advocate I am today after becoming involved with a Center for Independent Living (CIL) and learning not only about how far the Disability Right Movements has progressed, but how far we as advocates still have to go in the fight for equality.
Becoming involved with a CIL opened my eyes to the fact that people with disabilities are part of a rich and beautiful history. I couldn’t believe that I had not heard of advocates like Wade Blank, who fought to make our public transportation systems accessible or Fred Fay, who fought for Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which was a precursor, so to speak, to the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) before getting involved with the CIL. I thought to myself, ‘why didn’t I hear about these incredible men and their first for my rights in school?’ I also found myself wondering why my parents had never spoken to me about them or other advocates. In time, I came to realize that I had not been educated about advocates with disabilities because they do not meet societal definitions of normal. Instead of being respected, the earliest disability advocates who fought for our basic human rights were considered less than and, as a result, their stories were not publicized as they should have been in society.
It is high time we change the definition of normal in society today to include people of all cognitive and physical abilities. Disability advocates can help do this by embracing life and living it to the fullest with our disabilities. I hope this article serves as a call-to-action for other advocates. I urge you to share your story, the stories of other advocates you know, and the stories of other advocates who came before you and paved the way. Help show society that a disability is not something that needs to cured or fixed, but rather something that should be embraced. People with disabilities have made amazing, life changing contributions to the world. There is no telling how many more incredible improvements we can make on this planet if society realizes it is best to embrace us rather than cure us.
It can be tempting to share stories like the one about “smart onesies” with others, but I hope after reading this article, when you spot or hear such a story, you will ask yourself whether or not the story has a message you really want to spread throughout society and then choose to share your story instead.