Archive for the ‘internalized ableism’ Tag

Accepting disabilities   Leave a comment

Lots is going on right now.

This month is Autism Awareness Month in the US, which means that it’s become Autism Awareness Month all over the world, because heaven forbid other countries choose different months (did you know that Canada’s Autism Awareness Month is actually in October?); today, April 2, is World Autism Awareness Day.

The online autistic community [a group in which I am including allistic – non-autistic – allies] has rallied around Amanda Baggs, a prominent autistic activist, because she is in the hospital and the medical staff had been trying to convince her she shouldn’t get a feeding tube – something she needs because she’s been aspirating so much that without the tube she will probably die sooner than later. The campaign of e-mails and phone calls worked, and she is receiving the tube today.

Lots of other people have written about how the kind of awareness that is promoted by days and months like this leads to situations like Amanda’s. The wider autistic community has chosen to reject the idea of “awareness” and instead promote acceptance of autism.

Disabled people are devalued in our society. The attitude that Amanda has been dealing with is far too common. Expectant parents are routinely pressured to abort fetuses if prenatal testing shows any kind of abnormality (and babies born with disorders like severe apoxia are neglected, on the doctors’ orders). People’s medical needs are ignored because they have mental or developmental disorders. People are encouraged to seek their own deaths, to relieve the pressure on their caregivers. Supposed caregivers (including staff, who are paid to support individuals with disabilities) get away with systematic abuse (of every kind). And supposed caregivers (all too often, parents) are given light sentences after they murder the disabled people they’re supposed to be caring for, because it is so stressful to do so.

Note that the links in that paragraph are for more than one country.

We shouldn’t have to justify our existence.

Every day, I read things from people that basically say “I may be disabled, but I [do all of these things] so I deserve to exist.” The worse ones go so far as to say “At least I’m not [X].” (Where X is a “more severe” disability.) We shouldn’t have to say these things, but we do, because if we can’t prove that we’re worthy of respect and rights and all that other stuff non-disabled people never have to think about, well… people die.

I find it demeaning that I have to point out all of the ways in which ADHD disables me, in order to get people to accept that this condition is real and damaging, and then turn around and point out all of the ways in which I am successful, in order to get these same people to recognize that I am a human being. I don’t want pity, I want understanding and acceptance.

Let’s talk about acceptance for a while, shall we? So many people think that “acceptance” means “stop trying.” I don’t know how to tackle that, so I’m not even going to try. Instead, I’m going to describe what acceptance really means.

Acceptance means meeting people where they are at, right now. It means seeing the person as a whole, not just a small part of them. It means finding out what is important to them, what they want to achieve in life, and what kind of help they might need to get there. It means understanding that people’s differences are important and valuable. It means learning what is hindering people from living the lives they want to live, and working to help them have their lives as they want them. It means quality of life, it means success on their terms (not society’s terms), and it means respecting people.

Promoting acceptance automatically promotes awareness. The more we accept people for themselves, as they are; the more we respect others simply because they are human beings; the more we refuse to be afraid of showing our unique traits to the world… the more the world becomes aware of us, our needs, and our humanity.