Greedy media have taken advantage of the old relationship between strangeness and fear. Most freaks have been presented as characters either shrouded in mystery, or dangerous due to lack of control.
In litterature, two examples of the fear archetype are Lenny Small from John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men, and Quasimodo from Victor Hugo’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame.
In modern society, a couple of freaky icons dominate: the crippled person in a wheelchair or the lunatic in a room with padded walls, ready to kill his neighbour. One incites pity, the other fear.
While some people with emotional and mental disabilities do present a threat, it is a very small group that is not representative of all people with disabilities. Ignorance prevents many people from discerning one disability from another.
This lack of awareness generates stigmatism and the resulting fear generates avoidance of people with disabilities in the name of safety. Until now, most people with disabilities are confined in hospitals and institutions, supposedly in society’s best interest.