Blogging Against Disablism

I have restarted this post twice now. Part of it is my pain clouding my mind and a resistance to taking my pain meds. I have not shaken the habit of taking them only when I cannot stand the pain. This has left me fighting off a meanness that the pain brings up. I don’t even feel it at first, but, then I realize I am harboring a great deal of anger. Once I accept that I can take my pain and that it is alright to take the little pill that lets me do more than just deal with it, I can resume living.

I see this as my truest handicap. I am at risk of pushing people away because I fear being addicted to a drug. I am dependant on the morphine, but not addicted. The dependency is my need to actually have a life. I am starting a business, I am following my dreams which I had presumed dead and lost to me for years. I am also using my handicap to my advantage.

I listened to a speaker last night who came to the United States from China. She has not shed her accent, nor should she. In her speech she explained the prejudices she faces as a result of sounding foreign in the united states. This racism that she deals with overlaps ableism. People look at a disabled woman and see her as stupid, inferior. People hear her and presume she is stupid, inferior. They presume that neither set of people has the capability to do brilliant things. We are raised with this belief system. We are told even if not directly by our parents, by the world we live in which segregates the special children, or forces students to take English as a Second Language courses regardless of need based not on their actual language but on their race.

My most recent example of a person using my disability as an excuse to other me comes from the grocery store. I went in with my Person to pick up some items for a road trip, with a client. I must protect myself from allergens and that was the solution. Sprite was riding behind me, tucked under the sunshade, and hiding behind my body. A woman came up, I am leaving out a description of her because when I write it, I other her. That is not acceptable either. She tried to pet Sprite. I didn’t bother explaining anything to her, I said in a very soft voice, meant to be calm, “Please go away.” She exploded. “HOW DARE YOU!” She got in my face, and I dropped the softness, but stayed polite. “Please go away,” She snarled, “You aren’t doing anything and you shouldn’t have a pet in the store.” I replied. “Please go away. I am doing my shopping and I am not here to befriend you, talk about your pets, nor am I breaking any laws. I do not wish to discuss this matter with you and have been polite thus far, despite your yelling and harassment.” I then floored it, my chair whipping around the corner and continued my shopping. Ten minutes later I hear the sound of my Person being pushed. His grunt of pain reaches me just before this woman is in my face again, “YOU DON’T HAVE THE RIGHT TO BE RUDE TO ME!” That was when I stopped playing nice. I let myself snarl right back, though I did not yell, “Really? Assaulting someone who is not involved in our discussion is rude, trying to invade my space is rude, yelling at me is rude, and showing your own inability to grasp the rights of others is beyond rude. Get out of my way, I don’t really care what you want out of me I am not here for your enjoyment. If you bother me again I will call security.” She flounced away, and I finished my shopping.

As we left, the store manager who had the law explained to her as we entered was discussing the incident with this shopper. She had gone to the manager to have me thrown out. Instead she was told this, “I am sorry ma’am but you have no right to touch her, her wheelchair, or her service animal. The law protects her rights to shop here in saftey, as it does yours.” The woman replied , “She’s just a cripple, she doesn’t have any rights.” The manager was openly angry at this, which surprised me since she’d been a bit of a hard case about it all before. I left then, to the sound of, “She has just as many rights as you do, and if you continue to behave in this manner I will have to have you removed from my store.” The woman then threw herself on the ground and had a tantrum like a toddler.

I learned something from this, that was the point of sharing it. I learned that every person I edcuate becomes an asset. I did not feel this woman could be educated, nor did I feel prepred to try and spoon feed her the information. The burden of fuctioning with a disability is fighting for my rights. I use my disability as a tool to be under estimated. The woman underestimated the ability of not just myself but of others to actually see the humanity with in my body. She under estimated the ability of people to actually listen. I do at times too.

The secret to blogging against disablism? Is to do it whenever you write. The secret to teaching aout disablism? Is to live.

I know this post isn’t as wonderful as I wanted, I am still distracted and out of it. I am not feeling myself. I hope it does encapsulate an idea. By living and not giving up our dreams we fight ableism/disablism. By having lives we fight against disablism. I am partly distracted byt a disappointment with Obama and his failure to sign the Community Choice Act. I am disappointed with his inability to see the human rights that lie at the end of his pen. There is still time, but, his administration has openly stated that there is no reason for him to actually make the changes that free people from being forced into Nursing homes.

Beyond blogging against disablism, I call you to act. Go out into the world, be seen. Educate via your existence.

To read more about Blogging Against Disablism Day, please follow this link.

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11 Comments

  1. 🙂 Thankyou for writing this.
    x

  2. Kateryna, this is such a wonderful post!
    I’m not surprised, that the manager got angry.
    Sometimes people don’t understand these issues and think we’re just being a bit oversensitive, but when they see with their own eyes how horrible people can get, the whole thing makes sense to them.

  3. Wow. She actually had a tantrum? I know some people are just very thick-skulled when it comes to disability issues, but that’s just unbelievable.

  4. @Gonzo, I was surprised because she had not seemed to listen. She made no attempt to even show interest, but had actually learned something.

    @Haija I was shocked at her behavior, it stayed with me for a few days. I haven’t seen many adults throw actual tantrums, but when they do it is much more memorable than any child’s fit. I never quite know what to do with them. My honest urge is to either run them over with my chair or poke them with a stick. Neither action is constructive.

  5. Bizarre. But appropriate response on your part.

  6. I think you responded really well: I tend to fold under that kind of pressure. Good for you for being your own best advocate!

  7. Even with everything I know about how rampant disablism can be it still gobsmacks me that this woman actually said the words out loud, “She hasn’t any rights.” I know some people THINK it. That’s why we don’t already HAVE our human rights respected! But for her to say it out loud to another human being on the clear expectation that she is the one who should be viewed as holding the “reasonable” position is scary. Because it makes me wonder about the other people in her more usual circle of acquaintances and what sort of things *they* must say about people with disabilities to lead her into believing that her way of thinking is not only “okay” but also “normal” and to be anticipated among any “reasonable” circle of people.

    The more I hear stories like this one, or stories over at Dave Hingsburger’s blog, and other stories in many other places, the more I wonder what comments might have been made in *my* presence throughout my life that I have no clue about because I couldn’t hear them. What do strangers say about me as a Deaf person, I wonder? ….

  8. I don’t know if it matters what we do not hear or see. What matters more is the steps we take to educate, even with the rampant ignorance that we face. That is the only way around it. The fear of disability will likely never fade, I honestly fear further disability myself. It is the prejudice against the disabled that can fade. So keep fighting!

  9. Kateryna, I agree that education (and fighting!) needs to happen no matter what I or anyone else hear/see. My point was, hearing these kinds of stories make me wonder what “teachable moments” might have been happening in front of me that I completely missed because I couldn’t hear the disablist remark being made!

  10. Ahh Sorry, I didn’t consider that aspect of the hearing issue. I am certain there are many, although every opportunity that you miss is an opportunity for someone else to catch it. We can only hope right?

  11. Thank you. As an able bodied person who also works in the medical industry it is very education for me to hear the voices of the people who are so often silenced. Thank you again.


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