Tech Writer Believes It’s ‘Ableist’ to Cure Blind People

Steven Aquino is mad at content creator MrBeast. The YouTube star took 1,000 legally blind people from all over the world and, in a simple 10-minute surgery, “cured” them.

The truth is, the patients were afflicted with cataracts which, if left untreated, can cause partial or total blindness. There was no trauma to the eyes and in the United States, cataract surgery is routine.

The video has an astonishing 104 million views in less than two weeks. It certainly is inspiring.

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But MrBeast raised the hackles of people who, well, are always looking for stuff to get their hackles raised. One of them was Aquino, who has several different maladies that he has overcome to become a modestly successful — and extremely self-important — free-lance writer.

Aquino writes in TechCrunch:

In the broadest lens, the biggest problem with wanting to “cure” blindness is that it reinforces a moral superiority of sorts by those without disabilities over those who are disabled. Although not confronted nearly as often as racism and sexism, systemic ableism is pervasive through all parts of society. The fact of the matter is that the majority of abled people view disability as a failure of the human condition; as such, people with disabilities should be mourned and pitied. More pointedly, as MrBeast stated in his video’s thumbnail, disabilities should be eradicated — cured.

Yes, they should be cured — as long as the person afflicted wants to be cured. I know of deaf people who believe their deafness gives them abilities beyond those of a hearing person and even if an operation or a device is available to help them hear, they don’t want it. And I’m sure there are blind people who feel the same way about surgery.

But Aquino doesn’t think there should be a choice.

At a fundamental level, MrBeast’s video is inspiration porn, meant to portray abled people as the selfless heroes waging war against the diabolical villain known as disability. And it’s ultimately not meant for the disabled person. It’s for abled people to feel good about themselves and about disabled people striving to become more like them — more normal. For the disability community, inspiration porn often is met with such derision because the message isn’t about us as human beings; it’s about a group that’s “less than” the masses. This is where structural ableism again rears its ugly head.

I pity Aquino not for his disabilities, but for his stupidity. Does he really believe “abled people” are “waging war against the diabolical villain known as disability?” Or is it doctors performing a charitable service that will make people’s lives better? These are not people who have been blind from birth. Cataracts are a disease of old age, and restoring sight to someone who had enjoyed their vision for decades is, as the video shows, something of a miracle.

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The truth is, Aquino is a miserable human being who can’t stand seeing people happy.

In many meaningful ways, yes, our disabilities do define us to a large degree. After all, no one can escape their own bodies. But what about our traits as individuals? Our families, our work, our relationships and much more? Surely people are aware of things like the Paralympics and wheelchair basketball leagues, for instance. The point is, disabled people are no different in our personal makeup than anyone else. We shouldn’t be pitied and we certainly don’t require uplifting in ways like MrBeast suggests.

MrBeast was not suggesting disabled people need “uplifting.” He was opening an avenue for generous people — able or disabled — to donate money and give sight back to those who wish they could see again. You can question his motives — fame and fortune on YouTube — but you can’t criticize him in any way for the results.

There are 200 million blind people in the world and half of them could be helped with cataract surgery. Aquino is not one of them. He needn’t worry about me pitying him, though. I save my pity for selfless souls who do good deeds and don’t whine about others not seeing the world through their ideological lens.

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