First off, I would like to say that I’m sorry that I was missing in action from the former self-advocacy blog. My life has been hectic and crazy. I have gotten married, my wife recently got a new job that relocated us more than three hours away from our hometown, and I am in the process of receiving my Associate’s Degree in Human Services. So, it’s safe to say that writing has been the furthest thing from my mind.
For my first post on the new site, I need to talk about something that has been bothering me for a while, and that something is ableism. By definition, ableism is discrimination in favor of able-bodied people. But, the definition isn’t the only identifier of ableism. Ableism is also thought to be characterized by any comment in which a person, able-bodied or not, feels they can do something better than a person with a disability because of that person’s disability. It can also involve a person not trying to do their best because they feel bad for a person with a disability in their presence. Personally, I have heard from thousands of people throughout my life time that I am lucky because I cannot or do not have to (insert physical task here) because I have a disability. What they don’t know is that comments like these and many others are hurtful and not okay. Ableism is not okay under any circumstances.
The sad truth is that ableism is everywhere! It’s in our homes, it’s in our schools, and it’s in our workplaces. I yearn for the day that professionals can see me as a potential employee instead of a liability. I also yearn for the day that medical professionals see me as a person and not a diagnosis. I look forward to the day that a high school student with a disability can join the wrestling team without his/her teammates or opponents being told to take it easy on him/her. The fact of the matter is that “sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me” is a complete lie! Words do hurt. They can tear someone apart emotionally and do a great deal of damage. And, it hurts my heart to hear people with disabilities selling themselves short by using ableist phases to justify what they can’t do.
We are all guilty of using ableist phrases in one way or another and it has to stop! We are equals and shouldn’t put down one another regardless of race, disability, age, marital status, gender, or sexual orientation. We live in an amazing time where people can put aside their differences and love one another and I think it’s about time we actually do that. Many people think ableism doesn’t exist. They laugh it off, believing the ableist has the best intentions in mind; and maybe they do, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. Ableism is alive and well. The Capricorn in me is tired of hearing “Be happy that you don’t have to work.” To me, this phrase is more insulting than any other words someone could say to me. Here’s why: I want to work. I want to provide for my family. My spouse shouldn’t be the only one with the privilege to work! So, if you take anything away from this article I hope you take away this: Something must be done to stop ableism and it must start with you. Don’t stay quiet. As self-advocates, we must let people know that what they say and how they say it matters!