I imagine if you’re reading this, we’ve probably had some version of this discussion more than once. To my infinite frustration, I can’t even leave the house without experiencing the consequences of too many people just not getting it.
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.
I’ve learned to develop a thick skin in the interest of open conversation, but I won’t let that slide. Here’s why it’s offensive:
You would never say to your Black friends “I just don’t think of you as Black,” or tell your guy friends you don’t see them as men. I totally dig the idea of the only race being the human race, but we all know it’s baloney. Despite our ideals, our differences DO matter in real life. What you’re really telling me is you don’t want to put a label on me that you perceive to be negative. If you can’t call me disabled because you think I’m smart, resourceful, independent and capable, then you need to make your definition of disability match that because it’s what I am.
There are countless others like me, and we suffer very real consequences of your misconceptions. The short list includes economic and social exclusion, segregation and abuse.
You don’t think your contributing to the problem? Every time you avoid contact with a disabled person, block a ramp or park in a blue zone “just for a second”; the children watching you are learning how to respond to people like me.