06 November, 2009

Part two--disabled

But, after going through all of that about how I don't like safe space and I love this particular forum for not being a safe space, I found myself, this morning, wishing the forum was a little more of a safe space. Because...well, I will just tell you what was said.

This woman made a post asking if people consider themselves disabled for having AS. She says that she definitely has AS and is happy to have the diagnosis, but she has heard that AS is a disability, and she doesn't feel disabled.

Some people, including me, said, "yeah, I do consider myself disabled, I have trouble with such and such and have to work around it, that's a disability."

Some other people said, "No, I don't, that would be negative thinking. You're only as disabled as you feel. My life isn't so bad." Which...I'm pretty sure the definition of disabled is not "a person with a bad life." And also, you can't just make impairments go away by imagining they're not there; believe me, I know.

The OP responded to one of those people by saying that she has a job, a home, and a car, and her idea of disabled is "someone who can't support themselves and has to get aid from the government."

Um, what? Excuse me?

The disability symbol looks like this:

It doesn't look like this:

When I see the disability symbol (the real one, not my drawing), I see a person who has a problem: they can't walk, or they can't walk very well. But they have found a solution: a wheelchair. And they have found the resources to pay for a wheelchair, and now they can move around in the world as well as other people, if they are accommodated. To me it's a happy picture.

If you just walked around and looked at the world for about two minutes, I think you would see lots of things that have the word disabled on them. For example, my university has "disabled toilets" and "instructions for how to get out of the building if you are disabled and there is a fire." I'm pretty sure that disabled toilets are not toilets for people who don't have jobs. I think they're toilets for people who have impairments that keep them from being able to use an ordinary bathroom.

I don't really have time to write more. I have already had some very emotional reactions to this woman's post, and her responses were about how she's going through a hard time because she feels embarrassed by the idea of thinking of herself as disabled. Well, I am sorry, and really, I think I understand how she feels to some extent, but you can't expect me to not respond to the very offensive content of what you are saying just because you are going through a hard time. You were diagnosed with a disability, and you think that diagnosis is accurate, so by what definition are you not disabled? You may think that disabled people are all unemployed so therefore you can't possibly be disabled, but if you have impairments, you are disabled, whether you are employed or not.


  1. Oh, to add another story. Yesterday I went to the feed store to get duckie food. As I was roaming around I heard one of the employees say, "He's special ed." and the other employee then said, "Yeah, he's worthless!" So when I came to check-out I said, "You know, it really hurts people when you say things like you did." and the woman said, "Oh, I was just joking. We were just teasing our boss." I said, "Well, then what you said was followed by: he's worthless." She apologized, but the excuse remained that she was joking. I'm not always good at confronting people--I become tongue-tied and can't speak, but the rationale that was accepted makes no sense to me. So, it is "teasing" to use special ed as an example? And it follows that special ed = worthless? How is that a joke? What if a customer (well, I was a customer) had a kid with them and that kid was in the special ed class? Hicks...gotta love 'em. Considering the Eastern side of the state I live in voted down domestic partnership (but luckily it passed because of the more 'realistic' people on the West side), I guess I shouldn't be surprised.

  2. That was such a shitty thing to say! I hardly ever say things to people who use the word retarded because they just act like I'm being weird. I seriously said to someone once, "Please don't use the word retarded, there's nothing wrong with retarded people and they have nothing to do with what you're saying," and the person said, "Hey, I know people with Down's Syndrome, don't bring them into this."

    Yeah. Like I just brought it up, like when she said the word retarded it had nothing to do with people with Down's or any other intellectual disability.

    People are just gross and the truth is they think it's okay to make fun of disabled people, and if they didn't think it was okay, they wouldn't use those words as insults in the first place.

  3. what state do you live in? I've been really out of this stuff being out of America. It's New Jersey or Maine or something right?

  4. Oh neat. I'm thinking of going there for a year after college because I've never been that far into the US (I've spent my whole life on the east coast and in the midwest). It's really cold and wet, right?

  5. It's wet on the west side and it snows on the east side. It's more beautiful on the west side and the winters are milder, though the east side has hotter, dryer summers.