24 March, 2013



People are well-intentioned when they say that anyone can do ___ regardless of their disability, but it actually just makes them look ignorant. I understand the idea that a lot of people with disabilities who would want to do something and could do it are not receiving the support they need, and too many young PWDs are told they'll never be able to do the things they aspire to do.

If someone wants to do something you shouldn't tell them they can't do it, but that's different from making generalizations about everyone. My personal least favorite is "everyone can work." Well, for example, how is someone going to work if they can't move anything except their eyes and aren't suited for a job that they could perform just with their eyes? How is someone going to work if they're so depressed they can't get out of bed in the morning or make basic decisions? How is someone going to work if they're consumed by a desire to physically injure themselves all the time and it takes every bit of energy not to do that?

I wish this wasn't the case, but I hear people using the phrase "everyone can work" in almost an aggressive way, as if it's ignorant for a non-disabled person to say some disabled people can't work, or cynical or lazy of a disabled person to say that they themselves can't work. I think this shows a fundamental lack of empathy and if you don't understand why some disabled people can't work, then you shouldn't even be talking about disability and work because you are really uneducated.

Sometimes it seems like providers, family members, and even self-advocates have a homogenous idea of "disabled people" and they don't make room in their head for the large percentage of disabled people who don't fit their image.

(1) Actually I think Ratatouille does a good job addressing this issue, by acknowledging the difference between "everyone can be a great artist" and "a great artist can come from anywhere."


My client cannot talk and often doesn't respond to things quickly. Her volition is pretty confusing to me when it comes to movement so all I can say is that her movement can be pretty telling, but I sure don't expect her to move on schedule or on command.

I feel like all this is implied with the vague label of "profound disabilities" and presumably we all know about people with "profound disabilities," so why is everyone so confused? I don't know what to say when people ask me why she doesn't look at them or answer them. I don't mean people with no experience, but people who are at programs with their disabled family member or client, or are even running the programs.

Also the eternal question, "Does she understand everything I'm saying?" to which the answer is a resounding, "I don't know."

Maybe I'm just a crappy person and I can tell you the idea has occurred to me before, but I get extremely impatient. It feels like a lot of people either demand responses from her due to their wholly unfounded assumptions that she can give one, or they just don't think about her at all. The idea that someone without obvious communication might enjoy some attention is just as baffling as the idea of someone without obvious communication existing in the first place.

I've sometimes gotten the impression that stuff that's "for developmentally disabled people" does not try to be inclusive of developmentally disabled people with certain support needs or that people who are "interested in working with developmentally disabled people" do not find it interesting to work with developmentally disabled people with certain support needs. I'm glad to say I haven't seen any extreme examples of this in the 5 months I've been working at this job--just impressions--but Single Dad Disabled Daughter writes about some infuriating stuff.


On the other hand, I have a disability and I do have a job and answer people when they talk to me. So people who like disabled people who do those things should like me, right?

Well, not really.

I'm not sure why it is that a lot of people who claim to like and enjoy people with developmental disabilities, or even work with them, have a problem with people who are slower than they are, can't do things that they can do, or just look or act different. When they meet someone who they don't immediately recognize as disabled or who they aren't meeting in a context where they would expect to meet a disabled person, the friendliness they would show to an Actual Disabled Person is not there at all, and they are just as contemptuous as anyone else would be about the person's impairment.

The only thing I can think of is that when these people relate positively to disabled people who fit their idea of disabled people, they're not doing so because they actually like people regardless of disability, or even because they like personality traits that sometimes come from living with certain mental disabilities. It's because they've created a new category, "developmentally disabled people," that they see as different from other people and relate to differently from the way they relate to other people.  If a developmentally disabled person is too much of a peer, or looks or acts too similar to non-disabled people, they can't put them in the "developmentally disabled people" category, so they can't accept their disability.

Maybe it's an Uncanny Valley thing but I don't really care because I am coming out of the following situation.

I had a friend who spent a lot of time working with a group of people with developmental disabilities who are quite different from most people I know, and I knew that she liked that group of people a lot. Technically, she knew that I had a disability, and even professed to support disability rights. That sounds like a pretty good deal on a friend right? It was a long time before I admitted to myself that this person made me feel scared and uncomfortable about nearly everything related to my disability. When we met someone who I suspected might have a disability, I cringed inwardly because I knew she would criticize the person later for being too slow or too weird. I was afraid for her to meet my closest friends, who are all Autistic or crazy, because I didn't know if they would be able to hide their disabilities well enough to avoid being criticized by her.

There are some people who you know are friends with you because you're just barely good enough for them. And actually, there are people who are friends with you because you're bad enough for them, too--you're a "special needs" person to them, not an equal. Maybe I'm becoming an asshole but I have no interest in either type of friend anymore.

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