Friday, May 1, 2009
Today is Blog Against Disablism Day
When I first heard about it, I thought, how does one blog against disablism? Being disabled isn't some grave injustice that can be fixed socially.
So I used my brain a bit harder and realized they were really talking about the troubles the disabled face, whether or not their disability is visible.
I suffer from mild depression, which in no way debilitates me nor affects my life adversely. However, if it did, I have no doubt I have upper-middle-class money privilege to back my ass up.
Other people shouldn't have to face the troubles they do, but still they do, because there just aren't enough resources for them. And there aren't enough resources for them because people without disabilities just don't care.
So some disabled people end up in poverty. In the streets, sometimes. And because some of them don't have visible disabilities, we pass by them and dismiss them as bums who should be getting a job.
I wasn't sure if I was going to blog today about this. Disability is not one of my issues. It's not my forte. I couldn't talk about it if I had to, not very well. There are so many problems even just discussing disability (and yes, words DO matter) that I was hesitant to write today in case I fucked up. The last thing I want is to unintentionally hurt an entire group of people.
I ran into a friend the other day. He suffers from muscular distrophy disorder and gets about in a motorized wheelchair. He's pretty happy with himself (and he has a wicked wheelchair). Right now I'm recalling the times I've talked to him about cool places to go and he can't go, because they're not accessible.
My able-bodied privilege has really only slapped me in the face once: a year or two ago, I was being my usual chirpy Municipal Liaison self for NaNoWriMo and our events are mostly held at Paperchase. It's a cafe above a magazine store of the same name. I got a private message asking if the cafe was wheelchair accessible. I said no, but if said member really wanted to attend, I was sure I could get some people to help.
That was a MORON MOVE, as I would discover later, because even though such a gesture was just my way of offering the member inclusion, it also highlighted the disability in a way that would inevitably have pointed out to hir's Different-ness.
I hesitate even to write about my depression, because it's so mild and really so little compared to the challenges that other people face.
Once, during the Very Angsty Time when I was arguing with my mother, I told her I was suffering from depression, and irritatedly, she demanded, "Is there something wrong with you? Do you need to see a psychiatrist??"
She said it to me in a way that told me that I should be ashamed to have depression, how dare I be different and have all these troubles and disturb others so.
I stared back at her and said, "YES."
She said nothing to me. She walked away.
Yet, even there, I was privileged. I have no doubt that if I had pressed the issue further, I would have gotten to see a psychiatrist. But I never pressed the issue. My parents were clearly uncomfortable with the idea that Something Was Wrong with this troublesome child they raised, and I was already feeling guilty for being such a fuck-up. My mum ignored my depression and dismissed me as being rebellious. My dad gave me pamphlets on depression to read, as if I didn't already know what it was I suffered from. He's gotten significantly better about this issue - somehow, as I grew older, I also grew braver to talk to him about my problems, because I'm not the only one in my family who has it: my brother does, and so does my mum. It affected the way we treated each other. And we didn't fix it because we were too scared to admit that there was Something Wrong with us. (OK, it still does affect us, but I'm not home much to get on anybody else's nerves, my brother works too-long hours, and my mum's in a better place in life now.)
And there's the crux of disablism - of the discrimination, silent or otherwise, of those folks who suffer from something or another, whether it be a chronic physical condition, or a mental illness: those of us who don't suffer from these problems ignore those who do, because those who do serve as an uncomfortable reminder that we, too, could potentially be in their place. Cara says this better than I do.
We could all be doing just a little bit more to be kinder and more helpful to those with disabilities. Even if it's as something as simple as not using words like "lame" or "retarded" to say something is bad. It could be as simple as realizing that living free of pain is a privilege many of us enjoy.
Or, if you have a lot of time and/or inclination to learn more about disability issues, check out the link roundup at Diary of a Goldfish. The articles are even divided into categories so you might be able to find something of interest there more easily.
Thanks to troubleinchina for giving me the impetus to write this.
cross-posted to the Redux edition