It’s okay to be angry
Last week, I wrote a small thread on Twitter. I was frustrated because it’d been a hard week. My wheelchair needs repaired, and insurance had denied it because I was already denied LAST YEAR. Yeah, that was literally their reasoning. “We already said no, stop asking.” On top of that, my SSI got all screwed up and I am once again worried about making too much money at my part time job. Everything on the news is damn near unbearable to read. And, oh yeah, the straw ban fun is still going strong.
I’m not listing out my complaints simply to whine, but just to give you an idea of where I was at mentally while writing this tweet.
95% of the disabled experience is repeatedly explaining yourself to abled ppl who
– think they know more about your disability/life than you do
– have no interest in actually trying to understand
– agree with policies that threaten your existence
– refuse to acknowledge ableism
— Karly (@hikarlyjoy) July 12, 2018
I was angry.
Clearly. We all have those days where life feels like it’s putting too much on you, and this was one of those days.
After I got out of work on Friday, I saw that the tweet was getting quite a bit of attention… at least for me, anyway. I usually get one or two RT’s, and it had gotten over 100. And it didn’t stop. My mentions have never moved so fast, and I was happy to see that so many people were sending messages of support and agreement.
The disability community has its flaws like any other, but I’ve also found it to be the most supportive group I’ve ever been a part of. There are times when life gets complicated and messy in a way that the abled people in my life can’t understand, which leaves me feeling pretty lonely. But then I can write about it online and have over 2,000 people raise their hands to say ‘hey, me too!’
Of course, it wouldn’t be the internet if you didn’t get shit on by at least one person, usually a white guy.
I’m not going to share his name or tweets because honestly, he’s not worth the effort to do so, but I’ll try and sum it up. Basically, he said that what I wrote was nothing but an overblown exaggeration, that people are nice and will help, and that the problem lies with me and my negativity.
Whenever the disability community brings up ableism or some kind of problem, we’re either dismissed or argued with incessantly. No one seems to want to admit it or talk about it. Disability makes abled people uncomfortable and acknowledging a systemic problem caused mainly by abled people makes them even more uncomfortable.
So, it’s no wonder that ableism remains ingrained so deeply in society. To the point that it can look like a friendly compliment or a passion for environmentalism. It’s denied by both abled and disabled people alike, and even when someone starts handing out receipts, it’s usually still shrugged off.
When I responded to that oh so lovely man in my mentions, I tried to explain (with some snark, I admit) that while some disabled people are given help when they ask and don’t have to spend the majority of their time fighting against ableism, that isn’t the case for everyone. Twitter Guy wasn’t having it.
We went back and forth for a while, mostly in circles. In the end, I just stopped answering him. I couldn’t get past the irony of him calling me judgmental and then immediately saying he could tell just by scrolling through my feed that I foster nothing but negativity and cruelty by “blaming society” for all of my “inconveniences”.
One or two annoying guys on Twitter, as insulting as they can be, isn’t that big of a deal.
The big deal is that it isn’t just one or two annoying guys on Twitter.
It never has been and never will be. It’s our own family and friends that react the same way. Our neighbors, teachers, and doctors. Our waitresses who condescendingly ask if we want a straw with our drinks or to save a turtle instead.
And we’re back to the straws, again. Because the thing is, and this is what I was getting at when I wrote that tweet of mine, is that when we speak up for what we need, it always turns into a debate. Always. The straw debate should never have happened. The second people mentioned a ban and disabled people initially explained why some of us need plastic straws it should’ve been over.
It’s not hard to understand, accept what disabled people say, and move on to find a different way to help the environment.
But that’s not what happened, and weeks later, abled people are still insisting that disabled people are either lying, exaggerating, or need to just get over it and use something else instead.
This isn’t anything new, either. It sort of comes with the territory once you start advocating for yourself. I’ve been accused in front of my classmates for claiming to need more help than I do, been told to “prove” that I couldn’t tear open my milk carton or open a door. I’ve seen doctors refuse to acknowledge pain and symptoms. There are countless places that I can’t visit because they’re not accessible and nothing will be done to force them to comply with the ADA. I lost count of how many interviews I went on that consisted of illegal questions about my disability and resulted in me not getting hired.
But if I call out any of that, I’m too negative. Disabled people are supposed to smile and say thank you, regardless of the circumstances. Just be grateful for the places that are accessible. For the handful of apartments that can accommodate a wheelchair. The few small businesses downtown that don’t have steps or aisles too narrow to navigate. For the needle in a haystack companies willing to hire me or the activities open to people like me.
When it comes to accessibility, disabled people are given scraps. And then we’re supposed to sing the praises of whoever hands them out.
But you know what? It’s okay to be angry. Accessibility isn’t a bonus or a good deed. It’s not a convenience. It’s the thing that determines whether or not we can have a social life or even get out of bed. It should be the default. The standard. I shouldn’t need to ask for basic things like ramps, lower tables and bars, or you guessed it – straws. And for all the people who continue to try and tell me I’m being unreasonable – it’s also the law. Yet somehow, it’s still always up for debate. That… that pisses me off more than I can say.
I don’t care what anyone else says – my life and my right to participate in society aren’t up for debate.
It’s not unreasonable, and it’s not asking for too much. Disabled people are people. Our needs aren’t ‘special’ – they’re just our needs and they’re valid.
We don’t need to take our discrimination with a smile and a thank you. I’m not going to stay silent just because my mention of ableism might make someone uncomfortable. You know what makes me uncomfortable? Being treated like a second-class citizen.
I am angry, and I have a right to be. You should be angry, too. It’s okay to recognize when something is wrong because if we don’t, nothing is ever going to change.