I have been going to the same bank branch for years and so they have watched as my body morphed, as I adjusted to being disabled. The majority of the time I am outside of the house, I use my scooter because I become fatigued easily and walking in a few short blocks, is enough to send pain shooting throughout my body. Last week I had to go the bank and my friend offered to give me a ride, because the weather conditions would have made it difficult for me to negotiate my scooter, even though the bank is only a few blocks away from where I live.
He dropped me off in front the bank and I limped in with my walking stick. I went up to a cashier and her first words to me were, “wow you can walk now.” I have to admit that my first emotion was downright irritation. The moment someone sees a mobility device, it is assumed that you are totally paralyzed and heaven forbid you stand for a second to stretch your legs. The ability to stand or even walk a few blocks is not evidence that a disability does not exist. There is such a thing as a range of motion, but because disability is far too often defined by able bodied gatekeepers, it creates a false construction of what it is to be disabled.
There is also the assumption, that if you suddenly take a few steps, that you are cured or have been faking all along. I think the notion that people who are disabled can be miraculously cured comes from the media. Time after time, I have read books or watched shows on television, only to see some amazing new surgery or medication that makes the disabled person get up and do a jig. It’s ridiculous and ableist. It also presents the idea that because our bodies function differently, that we are faulty broken individuals. To negotiate an ableist world, someone who is differently able has to be highly functional. We are often forced to find solutions to issues that cause barriers to access, based in the simple fact that there is an extreme resistance to providing even the most reasonable accommodations for us. Even in times when the task insurmountable, we are often told that we need to find a way around the issue.
I write about my experiences with disability, because I think it is so necessary that our stories are told by us without the intervention of TAB people, yet at the same time, I am tired of having to explain the various nuances of my condition to help the hopelessly clueless. Of course, the TAB never acknowledge how exhausting the process is for me. It is just assumed because they are curious, I should provide the answers. There is a part of me that is always tempted to oblige, in the hope that they will leave the next differently abled person alone.
There is also the other end of the spectrum. I recently had an e-mail specifically requesting that I stop writing about my experiences with disability. Apparently, it “brings the blog down and is fucking boring.” It is also supposedly my attempt to “play the victim,” because I want people to feel sympathy for me because I am fat. It seems that if I were to lose weight, I too could have the magic cure that we see on television all too often. Obviously, the e-mail was riddled with disableism and fat phobia, but in many ways, it represents how people understand my body.
The truth is, that unless disability is part of your identity there are many things that you are going to be ignorant about; it is further complicated by the fact that not all disabilities are the same. Other than gaining access through better accommodations, my only wish at this point, is that the TAB would have the decency of getting their 101 on before engaging with me. It really is a simple task to educate yourself when there are so many resources available, and it is privilege to think that you can ignore the plight of the differently abled. And on a finale note to those who find my writings about disability boring: As long as this is my space I will write my truth.