How Can We Help You?

In many online discussions, I have seen a very interesting and disturbing trend when disabled people bring up the lack of accessibility in venues, parking lots, buildings, etc. The discussions never take off until someone mentions how they can help ABLE-BODIED PEOPLE. It’s all very ho-hum and lol a disabled person can’t get on/off the sidewalk. But mention strollers or delivery trucks? And everyone’s excited, throwing out ideas on how to make things more accessible.

I am completely unnerved by this. Why must strollers and delivery trucks be mentioned? Shouldn’t the fact that HUMAN BEINGS are being institutionally discriminated against be more important than yet another way for able-bodied people to get around? Or are we still forgetting that disabled people are human too?

I lean towards the idea that people are only willing to put in curb cuts because it will also help able-bodied people. ‘But wait!’ you say. ‘Curb cuts are mandated by the ADA, so they’re following the law.’ Well, one, I’m not going to congratulate someone for following the law. I stopped at red lights today. Can I get a cookie for that? But two, if people were all following the ADA, why are disabled people often not accommodated in school? Why are there so few handicap accessible bathrooms? And more importantly, how come fire escape plans always say use the stairs instead of the elevator, with no mention of what to do if you can’t use the stairs?

I’m fairly certain that a plan for escaping a fire for disabled people is also mandated by the ADA. But you know what, ABLE-BODIED PEOPLE ARE NOT GOING TO BENEFIT AT ALL FROM A PLAN. So most times, there is no plan. The comments to this article: http://disabledfeminists.com/2010/09/08/in-case-of-emergency-break-glass-people-with-disabilities-and-disaster-preparedness/ at FWD showcase the difficulties that disabled face in disaster and fire rescue plans.

Warning: This next part is not directly related to the above and is a bit on the grudge-y side. I also cannot write out what the ableist point was directly, because it is very wrapped up in the article and drama that followed within the community. Basically though, the point was that it was okay to kick people out of a place (if only temporarily).

The other day I posted an article at a feminist community. At the time of posting it, I did not realize quite how ableist the majority of the members were, but I know better now. Anyways, I want to state that it is incredibly arrogant to be an able-bodied and/or neurotypical person and use someone else’s disabilities as a reason to support an ableist assumption. Yes, disabilities do clash. In fact, two different types of OCD can clash, but both people who have OCD should be allowed in public, yes, even if they’re acting in a way that is uncomfortable to the people around them. For me personally, tapping is a big part of my calming method, and to someone else with an anxiety disorder, my tapping can be A Very Bad Thing. However, to someone without any disabilities (physical or mental), my tapping would only be annoying. That does not give an non-disabled person an allowance to use the other person’s OCD as a reason why I should not be allowed in a public space until I calm down and stop tapping. It is just fine for myself and the other person with OCD who may be extremely inconvenienced by my tapping to discuss and try to resolve the difficulties.

End lesson: People with disabilities are human. And we would love it if you didn’t co-opt our disabilities to prove an ableist point.

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One Response to How Can We Help You?

  1. hand2mouth says:

    Just found your blog, and I agree with your main point. While I am a proponent of universal access or design, it’s wearying to always have to appeal to non-disability angles for any understanding, or awareness, or adoption or acceptance… The lack of empathy — even simple imagination, failing that — is utterly disheartening, even if the objective is accomplished. I’ve nothing against accessibility becoming mainstream, but as you say, the tendency to erase disability in the process is a problem.

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