Saturday, 17 June 2017

YOU.

[Image: a woman in a wheelchair sits in front of a grey shed door in the bright sun. Her hair dress and stockings are all pink her shoes silver.]




I am a disabled woman.

I am a disabled woman.

I AM A DISABLED WOMAN.




And

I am disabled by you.




Yes, you.

You there.

You who's looking shocked.

You who thinks, oh she can't mean me?

You who is starting to feel the slow creep of discomfort and defensiveness.




You who see inspiration and bravery before I act or speak a word.

You who feel the sharp pang of pity when I cross your line of sight.

You who pat me, or tell me in a Play School voice that I'm "doing so good!'

You who think, she doesn't look disabled. She doesn't sound disabled. She doesn't act disabled.

You who uses words like overcome and despite when referencing my disability.

You who see me and think, if only she could be fixed.

You who's first question is "so what's wrong with you?" or "what did you do to yourself?"

You who shares Inspiration Porn and simply can't see the problem. "But it is inspiring! Just look."





You who insist that I'm not a disabled woman, I'm a woman with a disability. And insist. And insist. And insist.

You who tell me that disability is a dirty word.

You who tell me I am a person, not my disability.

You who delight in your own perceived enlightenment, because you don't see my disability.

You who uses words like handicapable, (dis)ability, differently-abled.




Just say the fucking word.




You who cheer our paralympians, but baulk at forcing businesses to comply with even the most basic accessibility standards.

You who support accommodating disabled people, until it inconveniences you.

You who book events in inaccessible buildings.

You who create businesses with heavy doors, steps, no accessible change rooms and aisles too small or too cluttered.

You who work in them and say nothing.

You who see a ramp and think that access is sorted.

You who gets offended and angry when your failure is explained.

You who never considered accessibility in the first place.

You who say, why don't you just ring and check?

You who cannot understand how exhausting it is to ALWAYS have to ring ahead to check. And that a yes is no guarantee.

You who think, well disabled people never attend anyway.

You who cannot conceive that the constant lack of accessible venues becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.





You who think it'll never happen to you.

You are too virtuous, health conscious, perfect, to ever become disabled.

You who knows and are, better.

You who uses the R word or it's derivatives.

You who tell me why it's not offensive, because it doesn't mean the same thing anymore.

You who instantly begin making excuses or explanations for perpetrators when I share my stories of Ableism. "But they had good intentions." "But he really means well." "But what about their feelings?" "Let me play devil's advocate for a second."

You who don't believe Ableism exists.

You who still don't know what Ableism is.




You who say, I wouldn't give in and use a mobility aid.

You who say, oh but I don't mean you. I'm not talking about you. It's okay for you to use one.

You who use terms like "wheelchair-bound" and "confined to a wheelchair".

You who feel defensive when I become angry at their use.

You who ask if I need help, then ignore me when I say "No thanks, I'm fine".

You who feel entitled to put your hands on me, on my wheelchair, without even the most basic of common courtesy to ask.

You who feel entitled to ask my medical history.

You who come up with such unique and witty lines as "that chair could take you to Mars", "Do you have a licence for that?" "The two of you should have a race."




You who think you are a great ally.

You who speak of diversity and privilege, but repeatedly fail to include disability in the list of marginalised groups.

You who speak of embracing your body. embracing your beauty. But fail to include disabled people in your narrative.

You who talks about embracing difference, when what you mean are the differences you find palatable. Not disability.

You who rally against violence, unemployment, homelessness and restrictive reproductive rights but never acknowledge that disabled people are frequently over represented in the statistics. That disabled people who also inhabit other marginalised groups are even more at risk.

You who discount lived experience. What would I know?

You who think your able-perspective can explain my life better, write my life better.

You who think your right trumps mine.

You who believes that in re-centering the narrative around the disabled voice, you are missing out.

You who speak of diversity but only on your terms.

You who think you know better.

You who think we should be grateful.




You who think I'm some sort of inspirational saint for simply living my life.

You who instead expect me to devolve into a puddle of weeping flesh because disability came my way.

You who think you're a superhero for your vigilante policing of accessible parking spaces.

You who shout FAKER and refuse to believe the permit sitting on the dash.

You who still can't understand that invisible disabilities exist.

You who knows most of them are bludgers, fakers, rorters, leaners.

You who tell me I'm "lucky that he's stuck around."

You who think I am so burdensome that I should not expect anyone to want to stay, or, to love me.

You who reads a story about the murder of a disabled child by a parent, a disabled wife by her husband, and think "Understandable" "Justifiable" "Act of Mercy" "Act of Love."




You who think I am pretty, articulate, confident,


FOR A DISABLED WOMAN.




I am disabled by your attitudes.

By your infantilisation.

By your low expectations.

By your erasure, wilful or unintentional.

I am disabled by you.



By you.



By you.



By you.





I AM A DISABLED WOMAN.

A proud disabled woman. 

An amazing disabled woman.



I AM A DISABLED WOMAN.



Michelle





8 comments:

  1. YOU! You freaking ROCK! Just a few months ago a young woman in a Facebook group about the local university to which I belong made a post asking for people's input on what the campus could do to be more accessible for the disabled because she was going to write a letter to the Resource Center for People with Disabilities. I suggested she contact disabled students, but I also asked her what prompted her crusade. She replied that she was temporarily on crutches due to a sprained ankle and it had opened her eyes to just how unfriendly the campus was to disabled students. That's when I went off on her because, for starters, we have the Americans with Disabilities Act in this country that says reasonable accommodations must be made. Then I pointed out that she was aware of the RCPD, but had apparently not availed herself of their services before telling them they were doing a lousy job. I then asked her specifically for an example of how she felt she was not being accommodated. She said the Intramural building wasn't handicap accessible. Before I could tell her where the freaking door was (because there is one, it's just not the front door) someone else ripped into her stating, "I'm calling bullshit on you because there is a disabled employee in wheelchair who works on the SECOND FLOOR of the building." The young woman removed her post because abled and disabled people were calling her out on her ableist mentality. She was going to be the savior of the disabled because her temporary inconvenience opened her eyes to our plight. No, thanks. We're good. And if we're not good, we have a department on campus where we can take our complaints and, get this, they work with us.

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    Replies
    1. But in so many places they don't work with us. We need to educate people, not just to the laws that are there, but why they fail us.

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  2. Beautifully and well said.Thank you.

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  3. Yes, the on crutches person could have done better. But responses like this ensures that she (or I) will never do anything, never offer, or protest, or advocate, ever again. My own takeaway from this is that I should act as though the disabled are invisible, unless they specifically ask for or tell me something.

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  4. Seventeen kinds of YES! Great essay!

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  5. "Just say the fucking word."

    I love you so much.

    I am reading this nodding for Boo, for you... maybe even for me.

    This is so perfect.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Whoa, did this hit me right in the feels.

    I have it easier than some disabled people, because I'm an amputee. I'm rarely expected to justify using a wheelchair. Since that disability is quite visible--the others that I have slide on in under the radar.

    The rest of it--oh yeah.

    Thank you for your eloquence. Thank you for giving me these words. Thank you for speaking for me.

    ReplyDelete

All who are lovely enough to comment should be showered with cup cakes, glitter and macarons. I promise to use my spoon bending mind powers to try and get that happening for all who are lovely enough to share their words. Those who go the extra step to share posts should really get a free unicorn. Or at least the gift of finding the shortest and quickest line at the supermarket on a regular basis. xx