I was hoping things were going to start slowing down, but I guess everything in DC is always going a hundred miles an hour! That’s probably a good thing, as I never have time to get too homesick…although every time I heat up a frozen dinner I miss my mom’s cooking and home a little more.
This week there has been more work, more events, more networking, and more socializing. With this week of more, I have really noticed the contrast between AAPD/disability activities and outings with people with limited to no awareness of the disability community. This is probably a distinction so obvious that it is a waste of typing to say it, but engaging in AAPD/ disability activities sometimes lures me into a false sense of security and acceptance about being treated equally as a person with a disability. In the outings with people with limited to no awareness of the disability community, I am sharply reminded of all the work still left to be done. This is not to diss the “others” or attack them as horrible able-ists, but simply a realization on my part of how fully pride in the disability community has changed me. It’s a good thing to be shocked when someone displays an able-ist attitude, no matter how subtle, it means the community has taught me not to be complacent and not accept these attitudes, no matter how well intentioned, as the norm.
My point in bringing up these other outings is that I have been unsure in how to handle these moments of subtle able-ism. They are usually offhand comments, such as use of the R-word or a mis-phrasing of a question (“So, what’s wrong with the other people in your program?” Instead of asking about the range of disabilities represented- with the recognition that there is nothing “wrong” with our group and specific medical disability labels do not matter or add any insight into who we are as people.) The conversation has typically moved on before I’ve recovered from the shock and am able to form a coherent sentence. I want to educate people, but am often uncertain about the best approach. I don’t want to yell and scream, kick and stomp my perspective into other people, I doubt its effectiveness and kicking and stomping is a lot more physical activity than I have the energy for right now. Lecturing someone can be boring, and a little awkward when the person honestly meant no offense, but just had no disability experience.
Yoshiko’s advice at the Pizza Party this week made think perhaps one of the best ways to combat these everyday situations of able-ism is to lead by example and to change ourselves. Part of this involves being open about our pride in the disability community and showing respect for all members of the community, whether we share the same specific disability category or not (a little cross-disability love and understanding). Showing the importance of the disability community in our actions and speech would hopefully make people re-evaluate their own attitudes. I’d be curious to hear other people’s thoughts on how to deal with these situations.