I came across this image at microaggressions, and it positively made me ill. In one simple sentence it managed to erase the humanity of people living with disabilities. This is the perfect example of how easily ableist ideals have become normalized in our culture. Awhile ago, I wrote about my frustration with the fixation on eliminating the R word, without tackling ableism as a whole. Disableism comes down to more than one word; it is the very idea that people living with disabilities are intrinsically worth less than able bodied people. It happens every time the word crazy, idiot, dumb, or lame rolls off of your tongue. It happens when accommodations are perceived as special treatment, rather than an absolute right. It happens when disabled people are forced to live in poverty, because government disability does not pay out a living wage.
Even the term mentally ill, rather than neurologically atypical, suggests that the way the body functions is in and of itself wrong and needs to be fixed or cured. It sets up a standard in which the able bodied can be understood as normal, and all others as damaged thereby; limiting and erasing the diversity of the human experience. Difference becomes the enemy.
When I first became disabled, it was a difficult identity for me to own. Not only did I have to deal with the fact that my body radically changed, thus limiting my ability to do things, I had to challenge my own internalized disableism. I didn’t want to take on the label of disability, because I realized that I was giving up a privilege. I was later to learn that this privilege meant not only loss of access, but people believing that they had the right to sit in judgement of me. Judgement is what this post secret is about. Somehow, the author feels put upon by interacting with a disabled person, as though the person actually with the disability, does not have it significantly worse. The author of this post card has deemed the disabled person inhuman and that is a judgement based in privilege.
Disability also means that your needs are secondary not matter how important they are to your happiness or ability to function. To be perfectly honest, I don’t have the time to support the stop using the R word campaign. I believe that it would be nice if people were to stop using this word, but in truth, disability can never be reduced to one word and without a proper explanation as to why disableism is so hurtful and harmful, it really gets us nowhere. As long as our humanity can still be openly questioned without the slightest repercussion, then we have made no process as a community. People need to learn to challenge their privilege about ALL disabilities. It is far to easy to get caught up in your own disability because it so personally effects your life, but the root problem is disableism. Whether it is attacking the neurologically atypical, people with invisible disabilities, or wheel chair users it all needs to end.