Disability, Getting Real

“Reactionary” is not an insult!

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!

Choose Your Words Wisely, Disability

Are you an ableist?

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.