Society has finally come to consensus that people who are disabled deserve equal opportunities, as well as they can be provided. This is a victory to be celebrated. Society has not come to a consensus at all about what constitutes a disability, and this remains a topic of substantial debate.
Since this first point, that all people should be given opportunities to flourish, if possible, was hard won, disability rights advocates often make the point that everyone needs help sometimes. The vast majority of the human race will, at some point, find themselves temporarily disabled by sickness or age, and it makes sense to accept that helping each other when we need it is best. From this standpoint, there’s a drive towards the normalization of disability. From this perspective, the fact that mass numbers of kids who would have been considered energetic or rowdy a generation ago are now labeled ADHD is not entirely bad. On a practical level, the implications of that label must be considered for each child. However, on a societal level, understanding that all of us have strengths and weaknesses, and that we deserve help, isn’t bad.
The other side to the debate that says medicalizing quirks and individual differences is resulting in a vastly over-medicated generation. There are many stories about the failures of special education. These include many cases of children with learning disabilities who never learn to read and write properly, because they’ve come to use their accommodations–support services that they needed in order to stay on grade level content–as crutches. Others are concerned that giving everyone a label for the things they need help with waters down the concept of disability, and trivializes the serious trials that people with “real” disabilities face. Additionally, the drugs given for these widely diagnosed attention issues don’t just help ADHD kids focus. They help anyone focus. Because of this, in the intensely competitive atmosphere of college prep, there’s a thriving black market for the drugs. In the face of such complications, disability rights have a long way to go.