BADD ’17: In Defense Of The Able-Bodied

I’ve wanted to write this post for a long time, but it’s one of those “tread lightly” things, and that’s not my best skill, so I’ve put it off, but I think today is the day.

I’ve written before on whether or not it’s possible for those with disabilities to be ableist towards others with disabilities. While it’s a divisive topic I think it’s an important one to acknowledge and discuss in certain situations.

As excited as I was to join a swim team I knew I wanted to continue when the season was over, which ended up not being in the cards for a few reasons. I also knew the season was really just a start and I needed to find the next step.

I asked people for advice, people who have been around and faced some of the same challenges, but I didn’t exactly go how I thought.

Before I even made a viable connection, people tried to talk me out of what I had in mind.

It didn’t make sense to me, if the end goal was to create a more inclusive environment what was so bad about my plan?

I showed up to my 1st masters swim practice with extreme caution. I wasn’t sure it was going to work, especially after watching the junior team practice, but I needed to give it a try. I had 1 private session with a coach a few months before and I was still reaping the benefits. If I backed out of a chance at team practices I would regret it.

It was a hard practice but everyone seemed welcoming. I’ve kept a list of goals since I started swimming again. I had been steadily chipped away at them but things stalled, until this practice. I ended up crossing off almost everything else on the list.

Then nearly everyone who encouraged me to seek out other opportunities tried to talk me out of it, even when I didn’t ask for their opinion.

It wasn’t good for me to leave people “who are like me” or “could understand someone like me,” at least according to them.

I understand their concern, at least usually, but what confused me was these comments were coming from people actively working towards more inclusive sports. So, why shouldn’t I join an able-bodied team? Especially if it’s a better fit, in almost every way.

I know there are those out there who feel that I’m betraying “my people” but if the ultimate goal is for people with disabilities to be seen as equals to the able-bodied community so we need to become part of the able-bodied community whenever an ideal situation presents itself.

At least that’s what I think.

I’m not going to say that the change has been seamless. It’s been full of adjustments, not so great practices, and at times downright culture shock.

But I can say without a doubt that I wouldn’t be where I am today if I hadn’t made the change.

And that’s made me think a lot more about inclusion.

When we see a chance for inclusion we should take it, we need to take it. It doesn’t always come with the betrayal of the disability community, and if we keep seeing it that way then we probably should change our approach.

Inclusion isn’t a one-sided issue, we can’t just stand around and wait for people to include us. We can’t just yell, and bitch, and moan about it either, there has to be some meaningful effort on our part, and it doesn’t have to be some grand gesture either.

Sometimes “just” showing up and seeing what could happen is enough.

Blogging Against Disablism Day, May 1st 2017

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BADD ’16: Ablesim In Social Media

Today is Blogging Against Disablism Day. Blogging Against Disablism Day

I remember one of the first things I learned about the internet was don’t click on banner ads because most of them were viruses that could destroy your computer. As a result, it takes a lot to get me to even glance at an ad anywhere on the internet.

Every couple of weeks something happens to my computer, or rather the internet.
It thinks I speak Spanish.

I don’t know where or rather how it comes to this conclusion. I took Spanish for years in school but I can only remember a handful of words, none of which can be put together to form a coherent sentence.

I know people are worried that the data miners will find out too much about them from their social media habits. I have the same concerns; however, I’d need the internet to get something remotely right before I get that concerned.

In addition to thinking I speak Spanish the internet also thinks I use catheters (among other things) and want to sue people over the fact that I’m disabled.

That last one has made me change my social media engagement practices.

I realized that not paying attention to ads I am being complacent in what people assume I feel about being disabled. Yes, it would be nice to have more money at my disposal but that would mean stating that I think it’s wrong that I have a disability.

I’m sure whatever algorithms used pick up on the fact that I write about disability, and not being human don’t go much further than that. Still nearly 100% of the ads I see portray a negative view of disability.

Last week I started to not only look at the ads in my news feeds but do something about them too.

I’ve alternated between reporting “this ad is not relevant to me” and “this ad is offensive.”

Because 99% of them are not relevant to me, but they could be relevant to someone else.

I want to label all of them offensive because they’re offensive to me, but I admit I may be slightly oversensitive given that I’ve gone to paying attention to virtually none of it to all of it in the span of a day.

The internet is a powerful tool, it provides so much good to everyone who has access to it, but it also provides a lot of bad (and/or useless) information. Anyone can say anything they want and they can get away with it.

What does this mean for the disability community?

It means that ableism can come from anywhere, obviously.

It’s a good thing really. Not that ableism is ever a good thing but it gives advocates, like myself, talking points we might not have thought of if it wasn’t for things that came across our path that we didn’t agree with.

For every 1 ableist item we see we should come up with at least 2 disability items to highlight the positives of having a disability. The disability community may not have the money but we have the numbers, and more are joining the community every day.

For example, (and this is just one of the many examples obviously) the parents of the newly diagnosed child should be able to sit down at their computer and be able to find the good things about being disabled alongside some of the harsh realities. Because being disabled isn’t all doom and gloom, sadness and pity, or worthlessness or being less than.

Would I like ableism to be a thing of the past? Absolutely, but the world is full of ignorant people so, although it may seem like a pipedream now that doesn’t mean it has to be one in the future.

I’ll keep doing my part in small ways, big ways, and every way in-between.

Now about the internet thinking I can speak Spanish thing………

Blogging Against Disablism Day, May 1st 2016

Blogging Against Disablism ‘15: The “Acceptable” ism

I’ve never been an expert on Disablism or Ableism and honestly I don’t want to become one either. I hope Ableism/Disablism is on its way out before I ever fall into the expert category (another “Hail Mary” of a goal).

But that doesn’t mean I don’t find myself talking about it a lot, and probably more than I should. A little over a month ago I was asked to give a presentation on ableism and how it can affect accessing services, whether from public or private sector.

I like to hope the end result (the presentation) was a success. It was for me personally, if that counts for anything. But the creative process involved in crafting such a presentation wasn’t a breeze; there were moments when it was the last thing I wanted to do (in fact I tried to get out of it once the panic set in).

How do I explain ableism to people who have never experienced it for themselves? Or worse, how do I explain it to people who may have experienced it and might not know it?

I did the most basic thing possible. I started with the definition, just to get everyone in the room on the same page.

But where do I go from there?

I could’ve told a bunch of stories of my experiences with ableism but that wouldn’t be very helpful on a grander scale. Disabilities are too vast and varied for one person to carry the load (thank goodness, I guess).

My next slide was titled “the ism that’s acceptable.”

Yes, I’m still shocked I wrote that, even sarcastically, almost 2 months later.

I wasn’t implying that ableism is acceptable, and I’m still not.

I did it for the shock value; to make an important point.

Ableism is so entrenched in society that even the disabled can’t always tell if/when they’re being ableist.

I catch myself doing it more often than I’d like to admit so I think it’s safe to assume I’m not the only one that falls into this trap.

I don’t often change my stance mid-conversation, and perhaps I should, but I will often replay different situations in my head to see if there was anything at all that I could’ve done differently. I’ll often talk to friends with disabilities about ableist moments, or rather whether something was (or was not) an ableist moment.

One of my biggest challenges when it comes to advocacy is finding a balance between not going all “angry cripple” over every possible thing and letting people “get away with” being ableist (which is hard in itself when you can’t even keep yourself from being an ableist on occasion.

Ableism is never OK no matter how common it is in everyone’s everyday life but putting an end to it is going to be harder than I anticipated. Thank God awareness of ableism is on the rise but ending it once and for all isn’t going to be easy, just like every other “ism” out there.

But one question is in the forefront of my mind.

How are we supposed to rid the world of ableism if even the disabled can be ableists?

Blogging Against Disablism Day, May 1st 2015