Visible Disability? Stay the Fuck Home

27 06 2010

This week, after waiting and waiting for two caseworkers to help me get a new cane, a new one arrived. As you can see, I was so excited I ignored the fact that I just got out of the shower to capture my excitement.

This was the highlight of my week. Probably, of the month. I won’t bore you with the story of what happened to my last cane, but I have been waiting for a new one for a year and having one again is awesome. This means that I can go outside when it’s too bright out, or when it’s dark, I can walk to places, I can stop being a shut-in, etc. And with this new freedom, I decided to take my little brother to the beach.

Where we live right now is two blocks to the best beach in New Jersey. So we got ready and headed out, cane in hand. A car honked as we were crossing the street, and there were definitely a few stares, but the problems didn’t really start til we got to the beach.

From the start of the sand to about the middle, there is a wooden walkway. It’s not a very wide one, but walking in the sand is annoying, so it’s better than nothing. As we were walking with it on one side, a large family was coming from the opposite direction, to get off the beach. Instead of being courteous and going single-file, they decided to block the walkway so myself and my cane could not move through. I stood off on the sand and waited for them to move past.

Once off the walkway and on the sand, the cane kicked a bit of sand to a group of people walking by. Clearly, an accident (who purposefully kicks sand at people?). Logan told me, and before I could apologise, one of the classy guys muttered “dumb bitch.” And this was all before we set our towels down.

The message being sent to me, and my little brother yesterday was that people with visible disabilities/people who use assistive devices are not welcome in public places. People with visible disabilities make make able bodied people feel uncomfortable, and when able bodied (or even just sighted people) get uncomfortable, they do stupid, hateful things. All people with disabilities are not to be seen or heard, and we are not welcome in public.

Fuck. That. Shit.

If you are a person with disabilities who is able to leave your home, I encourage you to do so. Be out there as often as you can be. Enjoy the wonderful weather, go for a stroll (or a ride) and let able bodied people know that their hatred won’t keep you from daring to go out in piublic.

It’s a gorgeous day in Wildwood today. If I ever get my homework done, my fat, visibly disabled ass will be back on the beach, in the water, enjoying the sunshine. All able bodied people are welcome to bite me if they don’t like it.

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15 responses

27 06 2010
Devorah

Do you have specific needs that makes it hard to get one? I see them on Amazon for $18-48. I mean I’ve been poor enough that getting anything I needed was an uphill battle, but a year?

I would not take all this as what you are saying. I just think it comes down to people being selfish and stupid, then being too embarrassed to admit a mistake.

The sand guy probably didn’t see you were blind until after he said something and then was too chicken to take responsibility for himself. Jerk, yes, coward, definitely, but not necessarily bigot.

You’ve clearly got a lot of energy, and you are obviously smart. I would advise you to put the worry and complaint on the shelf and focus on things you want, and expect and actively, in your own mind, decide the thoughts of those who are ignorant and misinformed to be insignificant. They can be if that’s what you decide. I won’t tell you it will be easy, but you can do this.

27 06 2010
Leah

In that year, I was at school, not working, fighting to get on SSI, and my family lives in poverty. It was difficult to get it together, and I kept getting promises from both caseworkers that they were working on it. I don’t know if you’ve ever dealt with the Commission for the Blind, but it’s a hassle to get them to do anything.

In addition to that, I’d appreciate it if you would not try to silence me on my own blog. After living my entire life with visible and invisible disabilities, any anger I have is just, and the anger I have towards able bodied/sighted people is just.

27 06 2010
Devorah

I’m not trying to silence, you. If that’s what you got from it, then you weren’t reading well enough. If anything, I’m trying to encourage you to use that brain in a constructive way. I come from a large part of my life where I complained a lot, and it just wasn’t effective to help me do anything but complain and live in my misery. You can choose to live like that if you want to. I read several entries of your blog, and it doesn’t look like it’s helping you do anything but complain. It certainly didn’t help you to get a $20 cane in less than a year. You have an imagination. If your family lives in poverty, then find a way to help. Even if it’s only $20 a month, it’s worth it to know you helped.

I work in accessibility. The people I meet with have similar problems to yours. They also have real professional jobs, from Director of Accessibility for the Department of Veterans’s affairs to my own accountant.

Waiting for things is not the most effective way to get something. Did you work at getting your cane 5 days a week? Or 3? How long would it have taken you to get it if you had? I had my money stolen from me when I was on vacation in Toronto. I needed enough gas to get home. I read poetry on a street corner until I got what I needed. 6 hours, $100. People liked the poetry because it was inspiring, and because I read it like I meant it.

I work for a blind man from time to time. He came here from Poland 8 years ago. He’s around 30. He didn’t speak English well when he arrived. He now has a wife, child an education and his own company. He does well. Don’t give up, and don’t wait. And consider more carefully what people say to you. Keep your own counsel, because no one runs your life but you, but listen well.

27 06 2010
voz

Oh Hell naw! Is this fool really saying she knows how to be disabled the correct way because she saw some a few times?

Jaysus…this is as bad as someone claiming Blackness cuz they listen to rap music and have a black maid.

Devorah, sit down, shut the fuck up, listen respectfully, and try real hard to quell the urge you have to be inane, and you might learn something of substance.

In the meantime, being an armchair expert on other folks lives is uncool. Knock it the fuck off, cuz you are hurting a friend of mine.

28 06 2010
Devorah

No one is saying I know how t obe disabled. But I’ve seen enough strength and discipline to know how far working gets you versus whining and complaining. Life is NOT easy. Why pretend?

28 06 2010
Devorah

I’m not hurting anyone. If anything I’m directing her out of hurt. Again, didn’t say it was easy. Complaining gets you NOTHING but more reason to complain.

28 06 2010
voz

On the contrary, you are inflicting real harm. Your incompetence and insensitivity are doing real damage.

You arrogantly presume your verbal tripe is useful, and come here expecting to be heard while denying this woman a voice.

She does not need your direction. She is quite competent to manage her own affairs without unsolicited advice from fools with no lived experience.

However, when you have been blind for a few years, and learn respect and boundaries, perhaps you might have relevant to say.

In the meantime, you’d be well advised to temper your arrogance, presumption, and incompetence. It is not a good look, and serves only to worsen an already bad situation. Stop making it worse, and stop denying your complicity.

27 06 2010
Maddie

Comparing the trial of losing your wallet in Canada to living with visible and invisible disabilities in a world that is built almost exclusively for able-bodied people is incredibly condescending.

Also, I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that sticking out the government bureaucracy and shit that is thrown her way on a daily for over a year trying to get basic benefits is an example of sticking something out and not giving up.

People with disabilities live in a world where it’s constantly reinforced that they can’t live their own life without some sort of outside (often incredibly paternalistic) intervention. Their bodies are treated as one big medical problem. They are defined by the medical establishment as problematic, and lacking and the whole notion of ‘disability’ focuses almost exclusively on what a person lacks or CAN’T DO rather than what they can do. People with disabilities have to prove they’re ‘disabled enough’ to qualify for any sort of government assistance. Assistance that is often necessary to live with the basic dignity and rights that are automatically awarded to able-bodied individuals.

Finally, telling someone to ‘keep their own counsel’ is a huge attempt to silence Leah – even if you didn’t consciously set out to do it. Would you tell someone who bore the brunt of a racist slur to ‘keep their own counsel’ and not say something about it -not get angry and offended? Why should Leah keep quiet about her experiences within society? Why should she have to suck it up and keep floating along in silence? Why can’t she express her anger at being badly treated at the hands of others? Disability isn’t like losing your wallet. You can’t just read some poetry on a street corner and everything will be fine. There are systemic failures and societal wide prejudices to deal with that able bodied (and dare I say it – white, middle class) folks would never comprehend unless someone became vocal and angry about it.

The thoughts of the ‘ignorant and misinformed’ that you call for Leah to ‘put on the shelf’ shape they way she lives her everyday life. This isn’t just something that can be shrugged of in a ‘sticks and stones will break my bones’ kind of way. It is an everyday reality that can be crippling – especially if you’re not out there getting angry about it.

p.s. You also make a heck load of assumptions about Leah – that she doesn’t contribute financially to her family, that financial contribution to the family is the only type of meaningful contribution a person can make , that if she’d just tried a bit harder things wouldn’t be so bad etc. I don’t have the energy to unpack these things now but these assumptions are just as dangerous as telling a woman with a disability to stop complaining.

28 06 2010
Devorah

I’m not comparing my adventure to a disability as much as showing a useful example of a creative way to solve a problem. Are really too stupid to see that? Perseverance does not lie in waiting for someone else to do something. It’s doing something yourself. I’m sorry that reality messes with your day, but again, you get scraps if you wait for others to help you. You get good things in life by going to get them. Again, it isn’t easy. I’ve worked enough jobs at the same time to kill a normal person. I know what actual poverty is. I know being in enough pain to not be able to to good work and get fired a lot is. But that’s not relevant here. What’s relevant is getting off your ass so you’re not waiting a year for a $20 item. $20.

27 06 2010
Leah

There are so many problems with what you’re doing, Devorah. I barely know where to start (although Voz and Maddie have done a fab job so far.)

How dare you. How dare you make these assumptions as if you know my life, or the lives of people with visibilities. This is a problem many able bodied people have when they work with PWD (and really, when any privileged group works with a group they oppress) – you seem to think you have such an insight into our lives that you actually know what it is to live with a disability. This is terrible and does more harm than good.

Who are you to judge what I say in my space? I started this blog because I wanted to have a safe space where I could talk about the issues I care passionately about (whether they personally effect me or not.) But, I guess posts about fat hatred, the same ableism I experienced now being inflicted on my sister, and the gayjacking of the Malawi story is just me complaining. Not speaking out against the horrific injustice I see. I’m just angry.

Again, with the contribution thing – how fucking dare you. I have been trying hard to get SSI for 18 years. Wanna guess how many years I’ve lived with disabilities? Furthermore, I am a student. In case you haven’t noticed, the job market sucks and you need a degree to be a goddamn secretary. And impressive resume and positive thinking mean absolute shit when the interviewer can’t stop staring at your distorted looking eyes.

You never have worked with a state agency as a marginalised person, have you? My constant emails and phone calls obviously didn’t work because I still waited a year. But you’re right, it wasn’t enough. I should have had someone drive me to Trention so I could beg for a cane because my family can’t spare the fucking $40 for one.

You are the worst kind of oppressor. You use coded language to oppress and silence me. It’s disgusting, and it doesn’t fool anyone. You trying to compare your vacation mishaps to my life as a disabled person is silencing, and a gross display of privilege.

28 06 2010
Devorah

I’ve been an advocate to help people such as you get through issues with state agencies, yes. The end result was we figured out it was easier to do other things and often did so. This social networking that you engage in already could get you all kinds of money if you’d just use your brain in a constructive way. Probably 80% of those I worked with were busy doing those things other that waiting to get what they needed, and often beat the state to the punch. 20% were waiting around like you. Don’t wait. Work, create, do. Whatever it is. Do.
You can sure type a lot, and give me yet another reason why you allegedly can’t. Bullshit.
Again, I’m doing anything but trying to silence you, if anything, I’m inviting you to join the land of the constructive. It’s a cool place. Lots more happy than all this complaining and waiting. And a lot of stuff to discuss.
One of my favorite people tells me that kids like you are typical in his disabled community. They don’t want to work. They want to hide, scared and sure the deck is stacked against them. It might be, but you can still win if you keep working.
If you really think I’m oppressing you, look in the mirror. No one can oppress you but yourself.

28 06 2010
voz

You are no advocate. You are a bully using the freedom and level of access your lack of disability gives you to speak down to and silence people who actually deal with this shit. Further, you are revealing yourself to be an abuser, and someone who gets her rocks off on telling other folks what they can and can’t do when you lack the basic competence to offer useful advice and not hackneyed platitudes from the outtakes of a Horatio Alger biopic.

If you weren’t so obnoxious and toxic, you’d merely be bad comedy, but as it is, people like you make life a lot harder for folks who lack the freebies you have in life.

As you have been repeatedly told, that shit is not OK.

26 07 2010
whatsername

People can be fucking assholes (*cough* there’s an example in this thread already!) and it just never ceases to kind of amaze me. My hubs had a time where he saw people at his work not doing shit (not to mention the other customers too…) while someone who was in a wheelchair was struggling to get out of their crowded restaurant through a heavy door. He was too far away to do anything to help and came home seething.

Just like, I mean, how fucking privileged can you be? You know? Like, did these people never learn any manners AT ALL? When did going single file to make room for someone (or opening a door, or waiting for someone to cross the street patiently, or so many other things) become too much trouble for them?

A hearty hear, hear to your call; people need to learn to share their space and get over their bullshit entitlement to ALL TEH SPACE FOR THEMSELVES!

26 07 2010
Leah

Able bodied people simply don’t think we deserve up to take up their space. Last weekend I was at the boardwalk with some friends and people were deliberately walking in front of me or cutting across my path. I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again, able bodied people are assholes.

11 12 2011
Janelle

Hey Leah! I came on this post from Womanist Musings, and I’m definitely going to stop by more often! Let me just say, YOU ROCK! You show an astounding amount of courage to face the ablist bigotry head on! I have an invisible disability, so I am privileged in that people can’t SEE that I’m different; however, I have faced shitty ablism, and it’s really disheartening and hurtful. Thank you for your awesome attitude–I’m going to try and take a page out of your book!

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