…with a heavy heart. I’ve been through some challenging stuff since I was last active. I’ve been told I’m a lot less optimistic, and that might show in my posts, but I do hope those of you who have found my blog helpful in the past will continue to find it helpful. I believe very strongly that it is necessary to be real, as you never know who might be struggling and feeling alone, so, I’m starting again in much the same way as I did in 2011.
At this stage of my life, I’ve built friendships and have a pretty solid support system. My friends are mostly women, though, which has lead to some interesting discoveries that I will want to talk about in future blogs. Today, I’d like to talk about how eye-opening it was to learn how women are treated in various contexts and just how many of my friends have experienced some form of sexual assault or related misconduct (I’m actually honored that they trust me at this point).
An example that I’ve been discussing recently has been the situation for female inmates in Arizona. Currently, they are allowed 12 menstrual pads per month. (For any male readers too embarrassed to ask a woman, that’s ridiculous.) A measure was introduced to change that, and it moved forward a bit, thanks to the testimony of women, but was ultimately shot down. This decision was not made by women. This is also not a local problem. I found a similar situation all the way over in England. Why in the hell will these people not listen to women?
This brings me back to the main topic of my blog. I’ve found over the last few years an unwillingness to listen to autistic people, even as researchers have found that we are “critical experts” on autism. Here’s a link to that paper: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5368186/
I don’t yet have any answers, but here is my question: Why in the hell are the people making decisions about supports, research, and such not listening to those (women, autistic people, etc, etc, etc) who actually understand the issues and support needs?
In this post, I’d like to examine some of the things people say about disabilities and the attitudes behind them. I may ramble a bit, so bear with me…
In my previous post, one of the things I wrote is that I need my friends to believe me when I say I can’t do something. That seems to bother some people. They view such statements as defeatist. I’m not afraid of challenges. My left arm is paralyzed. Sure, I can ride a motorcycle, but if you tell me to clap my hands, I’m going to have to say “I can’t.” I’m not a defeatist; I’m a realist. Please understand that an ability in one area does not imply a lack of impairment in another.
Upon learning that my arm is paralyzed, people often say something like, “I don’t see a disability; I see a person,” or “You seem quite normal to me.” I understand that this is usually in an effort to be polite, but I argue that not seeing the disability means not seeing the whole person. Experience shapes us; we change as we adapt. My disability affects my life experiences, so it has had a significant role in forming the person I have become. Another thing to consider is that these statements rely on the assumption that disability makes one less. This is called “ableism.”
The Oxford English Dictionary defines “ableism” as “Discrimination in favour of able-bodied people; prejudice against or disregard of the needs of disabled people.” Fiona Campbell provides a more academic definition: “A network of beliefs, processes and practices that produces a particular kind of self and body (the corporeal standard) that is projected as the perfect, species-typical, and therefore essential and fully human. Disability is then cast as a diminished state of being human.”
A supervisor once said to me, “Disabled people don’t ride motorcycles.” He was well aware of my disability. He continued on to make his point, which was that, since I don’t “act disabled,” I can’t ask for the accommodation I was asking him for. This stems from the same kind of thinking as the more polite comments I mentioned earlier. In essence, he was saying that disabled people look and act differently from “normal” people, and because I look and act in ways that fit his standard of “normal,” I can’t be disabled. It seems pretty silly when I put it that way, doesn’t it?
I am fully human AND I have a disability. Let’s start with that…