From the woman who said she “didn’t like” the fact that I sometimes wore high heels when I needed a cane
The world is full of expectations for what disabled people should do with their bodies. We're expected to be grateful for the scraps we're given, and never ask for more. We're supposed to be quiet, and not make a fuss. And heaven forbid we actually try to enjoy our lives and have some fun!
I say screw that noise. Disability is not a death sentence, and we deserve to live our lives the way we want to - not the way society tells us we should. So today, I'm going to share with you some of the things I love doing with my body, in spite of (or maybe because of) my disability. I hope you'll find some inspiration in my words, and maybe even get a little bit angry yourself. It's time for disabled people to start taking back control of our bodies!
People with disabilities are often told that they should be grateful for what they have and not ask for more
It's rather exasperating to be continuously told, by those who are not disabled, that one ought to be "grateful" for the limited resources available. These well-meaning folks overlook accessibility issues and fail to consider the difficult journey towards accessibility - often through open conversations and a solution-focused attitude. What we really need is more of an understanding regarding the individual disabled person's independence and how accessibility can enable it. Instead of trying to shut these people down with words like "gratitude," it's time for those who are able to help make accessibility a reality for people with disabilities and view them as assets rather than liabilities.
The able-bodied world loves to tell us what we can and can't do with our bodies
An able-bodied world is the last place I ever expected to find the most judgment. From the woman who said she “didn’t like” the fact that I sometimes wore high heels when I needed a cane, to the general attitude of able-bodied people defining my “limitations,” the hypocrisy is astounding. It seems like they want to meddle in our lives without the education necessary to do so - because guess what? It's our body and our choice! If anything, those of us with disabilities should be the ones allowed to decide how we use our bodies, not them.
They think they know what's best for us, but they don't really know anything at all
It's annoying when people think they know what's best for us before really knowing anything at all; comparing their lived experiences to ours without bothering to ask. They believe they can start empathizing with us just because they picked up a few pieces of our reality. For some, that causes them to think every wheelchair user lives a brave struggle every day and wants little more than a pat on the back - as if we were only ever body! However, seeing and knowing are two very different things. Although we both may have bodies through which we experience the world, the similarities between ours and those of ‘able’-bodied individuals ends there when it comes to living with my disability. Let’s get real: who are they to tell me how I’m supposed to feel about anything?
We're just like everyone else - we want to be able to live our lives the way we want to
I know, I know - I probably shouldn't even be saying this, right? We should just accept what we have been given and be thankful. I understand that concept, I really do - but I also know that I, and everyone else around me, deserve more than what is currently afforded to us. We're just like everyone else - we want to be able to live our lives the way we want to, with the freedoms and rights we are due. I understand that a lot of privilege comes into play here and I'm not trying to invalidate anything there either; I know it seems like you can't say anything about my body without someone crying outrage...and that's exactly the point. Necessary outcry must continue if any progress is ever going to be made in the fight for equality and equity among all bodies. We can't have everything but we must have more opportunities for equity across the board or else I fear nothing will ever truly change for people like me who are trying to live their lives how they see fit.
So why is there still so much stigma around what disabled people can do with their bodies?
It seems like reporting on social media has made it socially acceptable for people to comment off-screen about disabled people's capabilities. With easy access to medical jargon from places like WebMD, everyone suddenly feels like an expert, discrediting and invalidating any progress that a disabled person is making. Some disabled people even advertise themselves as "inspiration porn" saying they can do it so anyone can — there must be some kind of magical power involved here. But really, we have to look back at the inception of Welfare Policy; people want to know if their hard-earned money is going somewhere where it will be productive and not wasted and published media loves a drama. Despite the reality that 1 in 5 people has a disability, journalists like to suggest that there is a disproportionate amount of people faking disability regardless of the fact that this is catagorically untrue — this shows how far behind the times our society truly is.
Imagine if every time someone without a disability asked for something to make the simple elements of their lives better, they were told that they should be grateful for what they have and not ask for more. Or that the disabled-bodied world knows what's best for them and they shouldn't try to do anything outside of what's considered "normal." It would be pretty infuriating, right? You want to wear lipstick today, isn't that a bit much for an able-bodied person? You want to pee comfortably, isn't that a little lazy? Welcome to our world. We're just like everyone else - we want to be able to live our lives the way we want to. So why is there still so much stigma around what disabled people can do with their bodies? It's time for things to change. Tell me what you did today to challenge the stigma!