My perspective on my own disability and Disability Rights has changed a great deal since November, when I started working as a Housing Advocacy Associate at Access Living (a disability rights non-profit in Chicago). I read a lot about what people like me had to accomplish in order for me to experience the level of comfort and inclusion I do now and did in school. I learned that in order to convince Chicago to make city buses accessible, for example, individuals chained themselves to buses. I learned that the only reason the 504 education law was passed to protect disabled students was because in 25 disabled people and their allies moved into a federal building in April 1979 for 25 days. If they hadn’t done it, we would still be in “special schools”. I learned that several lawsuits had to come to fruition before citizen with disabilities were thought of as able to live outside of nursing homes and that at least in Illinois, people still have to fight to stay out. I also learned about the many systems still in place that make it very hard for those of us with disabilities to work, earn money, and live as independently as possible. Poverty keeps populations marginalized—and 70% of individuals with any kind of moderate disability live in poverty. I started realize that I have felt guilty about my Cerebral Palsy for my whole life and that, that shame has made a bigger contribution to my self-destructive behavior than I wanted to admit to myself. I was mad. I still am I guess.
I began the depressing process of looking back at my life and realizing how many unfair things in my life happened because I was born crippled. The saddest part to me was that I had expelled so much energy convincing myself that my CP had nothing to do with any of that unfairness. I had convinced myself that the people I was dealing with weren’t like that, which in head made a lot of shit my fault. I was so afraid of becoming bitter about my disability that I became ashamed of it.
I don’t think that all of the people who made assumptions, ignored me, or excluded because of how I get around are ableist. Some of them, were people who love me. In fact I think most systems are ableist but most people are not. I think these people are on most levels do not realize how quickly they write off subconsciously disabled folks because they were accidentally taught to, and of course we’re not alone. It not because able-bodied (Straight? Financially secure? White?) mean to hurt people Hell I’m 27, disabled, and I had ignored all of this in the name of being positive.
I suggest you learn about, really, really learn about the marginalization of disabled people and other oppressed groups. Start making decisions consciously, education is the only way to do that.