Social media these days tends to be littered with messages that shame ignorance. You hear about the lady who blasts those who tormented her autistic son. You hear from the man who received abuse for standing up out of his wheelchair, berating those who were so quick to judge. Even people with disabilities shame others with disabilities, proclaiming they, of all people, should know the latest politically correct term.
So we go out of our way to educate others- to help them see that not everything is what it seems, to show some understanding, to not be quick to judge. But now it seems to have gotten to the point where EVERYONE is required to know, understand, and act appropriately for multiple conditions, outside the realm of general good behaviour and common sense. We are expected to know how to approach and act around autistic children, teens with physical disabilities, adults with colostomy bags… In fact, even in writing that sentence I felt I had to word myself carefully as to avoid angering anyone. Not only that but then each individual person may have their own specific wants and needs- for example, identity first or people first identification. (Autistic person vs person with autism).
I for one, don't particularly object to being called 'disabled' as I feel it's just a general term- whereas others take great offense to it. We seem to have forgotten that we ALL have our own back story, our own dramas, problems and grievances within our own worlds. I might roll around in my wheelchair and get inwardly cranky (for the umpteenth time that day) at the person who failed to see me and nearly fall over me. That person may have been walking around in a daze because they’ve just lost their job or received bad news about their own health, or that of a family member. (Or maybe they were just not paying attention). In our ‘ignorance-shaming’ we are so quick to turn the tables. We are so quick to judge them for their ignorance, forgetting that our own disability may be hugely prevalent in our own lives, but be a completely new thing in someone else's. I believe that, beyond the realms of good common sense, and what is considered to be acceptable public behaviour, that a little leeway should be shown.
By all means continue to spread awareness and education- but don’t berate those who weren’t immediately able to understand how to approach your situation. Show them how, answer their questions, but don’t tell them they are an idiot. One day I had two adults approach me at a service station, as I had just pulled up with a horse trailer. I quickly noticed that one man was the others caregiver, and they were interested in seeing the horse. But did I have a clue how to act? Nope. Did I have a clue what capabilities the man had? Nope. Was I as nervous as hell because of this? Yup! Did I stumble and stutter a bit because of this? Sure did! So the caregiver had two options- berate me for not being an understanding person, or help me communicate. He chose the latter, and I was so grateful, although admittedly still struggled. Sadly we are not all born with all the answers. Most people are willing to learn, willing to help. When educating and spreading awareness- please stop with the shaming. Use your own common sense and understanding to determine whether or not someone else’s common sense and understanding are reasonable.
In recap- 5 Reasons Not To Judge
1. We all have our own story, our own dramas, our own problems and grievances. We can’t be expected to consider everyone else’s as well.
2. Good common sense, whilst it may not be that common, is a good indicator that someone is open to understanding. They are doing the best they can with what they know.
3. We are not born with all the answers. For those of you not born with your disability- how much of it did you know before it occurred? For those of you who were born with your disability, how much do you know of another random one?
4. Berating someone for not understanding is only going to make them less likely to try with the next person. One day, we’ll have a world full of people who turn their backs on everyone else, for fear of being judged- despite having the best intentions.
5. We are all human. Breathe! And I hope you have a wonderful day!