I had no idea how badly disabled people were treated in our society.
I thought the course I did on disability and my social work degree meant I knew something. I learnt about ‘people with a disability’. I knew that buildings needed to be accessible for wheel chairs and that you needed to use ‘person first language’ so as not to offend. I knew it was wrong to park in a disabled person’s car spot and that they needed to be afforded the same rights as able-bodied people. I read some journal articles from prestigious academic journals and could summarise a sketchy account of the Disability Rights Movement.
I thought I had been educated about disability.
I had been Mis-educated.
Now that I am on the inside of disability, I realise I knew nothing IMPORTANT about it at all.
I didn’t know the shit that disabled people have to endure every day from a world that sees us as broken and burdensome.
I didn’t know that every day brings some moment of rubbing up against abelism and that this is grinding and disturbing and shocking every time.
I didn’t know that not a day would go by where a news story wasn’t published somewhere in the world about the mistreatment, torture or death of disabled people. And I didn’t know that in response to this, our abusers were afforded sympathy and let off.
I didn’t know that our opinions are valued less than non-disabled peoples, especially in matters relating to disability.
I didn’t know that a special kind of fear and hate was reserved for autistic people, whose disability is often hidden. I didn’t know that this was especially the case for autistic children.
I didn’t know that people so tragically misunderstand what autism is and that they are invested in keeping it that way.
I feel like I’m entering a rabbit hole that has forever changed what I thought I knew about people. What I thought I knew about me.
In your world, I am disabled.
Not broken. Not faulty. Not hypersensitive. Not fragile. Not weird. Not less than. Not strange. Not weak. Not a failure.
I think we are very, very afraid of disability. And I think that is an ugly, ugly fact.