Every once in a while, certain hashtags or articles make the rounds on Facebook and Twitter. Sometimes they drive me crazy because I saw them six months ago and someone has decided to revive them. While they come with the best of intentions – to educate the public about the needs/desires/opinions of people with disabilities or to vent frustrations about the public’s perceptions of the same – Hashtags such as #Stopableism2015 or articles such as “10 things Never to say/do to a deaf/blind person” appear to frequently do less educating and more griping about people who can hear, see, walk, etc., almost creating an overwhelmingly abrupt kneejerk reaction. If we want to be perceived as humans with needs, desires, and feelings, should we not treat those who may be over- or under-helpful as though they have feelings, too?
At the root of this trend, however, is a desire to be treated equally in work, recreation, and perception. I have been the recipient of both demeaning and preferential treatment, neither of which is what I wish. I am thrilled to have the drive, confidence, and luck to be gainfully employed, as well as enjoy a full social life with both blind and sighted friends. Do I get frustrated by perceptions that I am helpless? Of course! But I have found that the more I politely advocate for myself, the more reasonable I will appear, and the more likely I am to leave a positive impression. I am by no means perfect at this, or think one should accept every bit of well-meaning assistance that is thrust upon me; nor do I believe that I am advocating for every blind person out there. But I find that the more “human” I act, the more “human” I am perceived, and the less likely I am to flippantly use trendy hashtags to vent my frustration on a day when I am tired of answering invasive questions, explaining my access rights with a guide dog, or simply want to have someone ask “So what do you do?” without getting a surprised reaction when I tell them my occupation.
At the end of the day, an acquaintance on Twitter put this best: