What You Say Matters
We need to have a conversation. I know the big buzzword in the disabled community is ableism. And yes, I believe it exists. It’s rooted so deeply in our society that most people don’t understand the language and actions tear down people with disabilities. I’m NOT one for political correctness. I call myself a lot of politically incorrect things. I in no means am putting myself down. Just like others make fun of themselves, so do I. It’s a great thing when you can be comfortable enough to not take yourself so seriously.
Inspirational or Hopeless?
But how do YOU affect someone with a disability? There are two opposite outlooks on the disabled community. We are either worthless, dependent people OR we’re so inspirational that we must all live and love our lives like a disabled person. While I love my life and live to be a role model for others, I dislike when I’m inspirational for getting up and taking a shower in the morning. That’s a normal person thing. There is always someone worse off and there is always someone better off than me – than anyone. On the flip side, I’m not a hopeless, lost cause. I’m starting my own freelancing business, I have great friends and family. I have a life and have hobbies I like to do. I’m not helpless.
The way you talk to someone with a disability can shape the way they think. Many people believe they can’t go out and get a job because they’ve been turned down from employers. They’ve been told their entire lives they can’t so why WOULD they apply themselves. It’s known that when your behavior and your actions are encouraged, you’ll repeat them. If you’re told you can’t, you’ll start to believe it. Of course, not everyone with a disability is able to work a full-time job, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to find a way to live.
For example, if someone keeps telling me I’ll never get married or have a family, I may start to believe it. I may recluse myself to my home, stop being social, become anxious and/or depressed. It’s not EVERYONE who does this. It’s not applicable to ALL people with disabilities. But for anyone who is told they can’t… it’s mentally draining after years and years of it.
Encourage, Don’t Degrade
Now, I’ve been told my entire life I CAN do all of these things. I’ve been ENCOURAGED to do these things. I don’t even see myself as disabled most of the time, and I think it helps others see me as a person – not as my disability. I hear all of these stories of being bullied for being in a wheelchair, or not being beautiful because of the wheelchair. Not once have I ever felt THAT bullied before. People have said mean comments to me or my friends, but I have never been faced by some of the pure HATE I’ve seen some friends and acquaintances have endured. I’ve been so upset lately by trolls degrading people with disabilities and saying they’re not loveable, not relationship material, not worth their time because they have a different way of living.
“For Being in a Wheelchair”
Beautiful for “being in a wheelchair” is the most annoying thing I’ve ever heard. I’ve had guys tell me that to my face and it takes a lot to not run into their ankles or punch them in the face. It the ableist language that because you’re in a wheelchair, you’re not as beautiful as someone who can walk. It’s shameful that humans are so unkind to other HUMANS.
Because of my Spina Bifida, I have HUGE scars on my back, torso, legs, and hips. I’m so self-conscious about it that hearing any kind of that language is upsetting and takes me out of the conversation. It’s not just men either. Women do it too. We’re always comparing ourselves anyway, and then to have to compare yourself to an able-bodied woman isn’t fair. But there aren’t enough models who have disabilities. It is a growing trend, but it has a LONG way to go. The expectations of body image are so high, and then to have dozens of scars can be so hard to accept. It took me a long time to accept myself, and it shouldn’t have to be validated by a man or a significant other.
What the Disabled Community Can Do
But that is how the world works, and having a negative attitude or negative/ableist language or mindset toward a person with a disability tells that person they aren’t enough. We live in a world that encourages that we are enough – in an anxious, self-doubting society – but often times a person with a disability is excluded from the campaign. Inclusion can happen, but not before we change the way we present ourselves to the public. We as the disabled community must try harder and not play the victim anymore. We shouldn’t have to prove we’re beautiful and we have worth, but we also need to pull our own weight.