Welcome to my first ever video blog. I’m passionate about doing everything I can to help improve the quality of our lives. Sometimes I’m not sure my writing conveys that the way I want to. I want you to take the content and apply it. I want you to take it personally, so this is my attempt to show you I’m doing the same. I don’t know if it will be a regular thing or not, I guess that’s mostly up to your response. Thanks for checking it out.
Unless you’ve been under the same rock some of our lawmakers undoubtedly crawled out from under, you can’t help but have a strong opinion on the state of the healthcare system. I’ve got a lot to say about it myself, but for now I want you to see this video. It’s not an easy watch, but it is important
— Matt McDermott (@mattmfm) June 22, 2017
It’s not unusual for the police to restrain protestors, but what’s the equivalent of handcuffing or shackling a wheelchair user? I suppose I removing them from their chair gets results, but it’s NOT the same. It’s not restraint, it’s dismemberment. It’s excessive force, and a gross abuse of power to further reduce our weakest citizens, especially when they’re exercising their constitutional right to peaceably assemble. I thought the GOP was all about the Constitution! Denying the poor and disabled access to healthcare is just slow genocide.
I’ll be the first to admit I have a lot of “buttons”, triggers that set me off, and apparently society has a lot of fingers with which to push them.
Recently, I was involved in a conversation with someone was obviously trying to bait me into saying how inspirational a certain wheelchair user is. Feeling a bit of pressure, I proceeded to explain all the ways the person is inspiring that have NOTHING to do with physical ability or the lack of. That exchange is still gnawing at me. I’ve been reminding myself how the misuse of people with disabilities as the warm, fuzzy, puff pieces of society is a particularly sensitive button of mine, the person I was talking with probably doesn’t have the life context to understand that, and I have to take responsibility for my own “issues”.
I’ve often been called reactionary and sensitive. I’ve taken a lifetime of mostly good-natured teasing about it and been routinely dismissed because that’s just “how I am.” In the middle of making excuses for myself, I realized if “how I am” is “sensitive” to the fact that people in this country are being marginalized to the point of near invisibility, being “accommodated” as though it’s a special favor and not a legal right, and summarily subtracted from public life as though their tax dollars don’t fund it, then I’m proud of that. The same goes for sexism, racism and every other kind of discrimination humans inflict on each other.
Trying to make someone feel bad for reacting to their own mistreatment (or the mistreatment of others) is a proven, documented tactic of abusers and bullies. It’s wrong, and it’s REAL. Anyone who tells you otherwise is benefitting from the status quo. They might be perfectly good people who are so blinded by their own privilege, they sincerely don’t see it. Have a chat with those folks about empathy, but don’t accept the excuse. Even the most innocent misconceptions contribute to the problem. It’s unacceptable, it’s dangerous, and it’s systemic. Call it out!
Recently, someone questioned my use of the word “ableism” to describe society’s tendency to favor typical people over those with disabilities. It’s a real thing, y’all. For example, everyone can use a ramp (including people with handcarts, strollers, etc) but only the able-bodied can use stairs. In spite of this obvious fact, stairs are the rule rather than the exception, often limiting where people with disabilities can work, live, eat, shop, worship, go to school, socialize and pretty much everything everyone else does..
Inevitably, when I start talking about this sort of thing, someone will feel compelled to tell me a story about how their brother’s girlfriend’s neighbor knew a guy (not a guy, a kid. It’s always a kid), who overcame his disability and learned to drag himself up the stairs, and he’s SUCH an inspiration.
The only thing a story like that should inspire you to do is demand more practical accessibility standards so no one has to resort to becoming a spectacle.
We appreciate your support, but I’ll take dignity and independence over fleeting, warm fuzzy admiration any day.
* I’m not sure of the exact date, but I remember the moment. The following post is a throwback, written within my first couple years of living in California. It was a bittersweet time filled with life-changing revelations.
I’ve developed the qualities that make me a stellar employee because I’m disabled, not in spite of it.
I have no recourse if I “slip and fall”.
Antidiscrimination laws often have no teeth.
Yesterday was the 25th anniversary of the American’s with Disabilities Act. Like every law written and enforced by flawed human beings it could use some serious tweaking, but it’s important for you to understand it’s the only thing that gives people with disabilities a decent shot at participating in public life.
The tiniest shifts in our thinking could bring about big change. For example, the phrase “wheelchair bound” makes the chair seem like a ball and chain when it’s really a liberator. When I couldn’t walk at all, I was never more bound than when I was out of my chair because without it I couldn’t move around independently. Even though I can walk now, I still need my chair to do things like go to the grocery store. Think of it as a valuable tool rather than an unfortunate weight. I couldn’t function without it. It gives me independence and a larger degree of autonomy. Does that sound “bound” to you?
The difference between attitude and disability is CHOICE. No amount of mental adjustment is going smooth out my gait. Positivity will not make my muscles jive better with my brain. I can’t think myself more flexible. I can’t get enough work-life balance, balanced checkbook or well-balanced diet to improve my actual balance.
Unlike disability, attitude doesn’t bar access or limit your ability take the stairs, ride the bus, get a job, live independently or generally have the options available to typical people. Some of the most successful people I know CHOOSE to have the worst attitudes.