We’ve all been there. Your friends are planning to go somewhere fun and you want to join them. You’re excited to go – you never get out. They even invite you, but when the departure day comes, they leave without you.
Whether it is inadvertently rejecting you from a trip, or forgetting you on a curb in the middle of downtown Los Angeles, California, while leaving you to fend for yourself, you're left with the solid, resolute reality that you are disabled.
In my case, I have Mild Cerebral Palsy and—in more recent years—chronic pain. The pain has slowed me down a lot, so as a result, gatherings that when I was younger, I would’ve been invited to, I’m left out of entirely. An interesting paradigm shift happens, here: “I don’t want to take care of you.” One will say, and the others simply imply it by the silent knowledge that there is a difference between us.
Yes, I’m older now, and not as spry, but that doesn’t somehow mean that I want to be excluded or that you even have the right to exclude me in the first place. When I tell you that I, as an individual with disabilities am able to do something, and will, take me at my word, not your preconceived notions of me, and what you think you understand. Is my pain a reality for me? Yes. Can I manage myself? Yes. Are you somehow obligated to take care of me? No, you aren’t, as infantilizing as that comes across to us. US. There are so many of us, adults, being excluded.
While an able-bodied person could argue that they are simply ‘looking out for us’ when they don’t invite us, un-invite us, make up bullshit excuses, whatever it is—it hurts. It hurts to be told by people that are supposed to love and support you, that you are unable, and they thereby enable your disability for themselves.
This is a very unique issue for us, which not a lot of people realize. Sometimes, there are positives: “You have a handicap placard? Cool, let’s go to the Mall!” Or you otherwise have access to things that an able bodied person wouldn’t. “First to board? That’s great! Let’s fly everywhere!” So, while these things are, on the outside positive (we get to hang out with friends more) we are ultimately, again, having our disability enabled for another person’s benefit.
It's a bit of a double standard, isn't it? It isn't okay for my body to encumber you in any way; however, I will totally take advantage of privileges that are unique to you!
The issue here, is that only able-bodied see things like that. They are told from the moment that they are born that they will be able to do anything that they want. While we are told the same thing as children, the fine print designates specific things we cannot do. For example, I loved being a teacher; however, it put far too much strain on my body, so I learned that I need a job where I can sit, and not be on my feet so much. I could also never be a pro ice-skater.
So while someone could argue that this is a black and white issue, like 'get different friends' or 'find another job' it isn’t. It seems that way, but there are an incredible amount of other things that this affects: Our friendships, our view of ourselves as having our own autonomy as a person; a disabled person, a person that should be treated with dignity and respect.
We are people, we are not burdens. We are people, not a means to an end for anyone else, no matter who they are.
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