My Friends and Ableism

Consider this a super-late Blogging Against Disableism Day post. The real BADD posts can be found here: http://blobolobolob.blogspot.com/2011/05/blogging-against-disablism-day-2011.html

Ableism makes me feel old. It makes me feel as if I’ve been disabled far longer than one year and seven months. I’m shocked every time I realize I haven’t been disabled for more than two years. It seems as if ableism will never end. That people will never stop asking what’s wrong with me, that people will never stop asking hugely personal questions about my bodily functions, and that people will never stop staring at me as if I’m there for their personal amusement.

Ableism affects me first of all. Ableism affects disabled people first of all. But it also affects my able-bodied friends and family. It affects them and I hate that. It affects how people see them. When they are out with me, it affects how they are seen. And oh boy are they <i>seen</i>.

I once went into a Target with one of my really good friends. That was one of the days I was blissfully unaware (or more like, uncaring) of everyone staring at me. Halfway through the store, she leaned down slightly and said quietly, “Everyone’s staring at you.”

“Yeah, they do that,” I answered back, before I realized that when she said ‘you’ she meant ‘us’. The entire time we were there, she was extremely uncomfortable. I hated that she couldn’t enjoy herself like we had planned because other people couldn’t mind their own business.

I hate the fact that my friends have to get used to stares if they want to hang out with me. I hate the fact that my friends also have to plan how to get into places if they’re with me. I hate the fact that my friends also have to feel as if they are on display for the amusement and curiosity of others. I hate that there are people who assume that they are there solely to help me instead of being there because they are my friends.

I remember what it was like for us to go into a store and act like wild young adults and not receive disapproving glances. I remember what it was like for us to go into stores and just be part of the masses. I remember what it was like for us to only use back entrances when we wanted to be sneaky instead of only being able to use back entrances to get into many places.

If ableism did not exist, my friends and I would have continued to use front entrances to every place we went. We would have continued to spend time in a store acting our age (or slightly less) without as many disapproving glances (gimps aren’t allowed to have fun apparently). We would have continued to spend as much time as we wanted in a store and not have to leave early after becoming uncomfortable with impromptu and inappropriate conversations. We would have continued going to places without having a discussion on whether it’s accessible or not.

Some people will say that it’s the fault of disability. Considering there is no guarantee of spending the rest of your life able-bodied, I think it’s the fault of ableism. I hate that my friends have to deal with it as well.

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