About three weeks ago, a twitter hashtag known as #TheAbleistScript started making the rounds on twitter. It seems to be the most comprehensive, robust, and long-lasting hashtag (though certainly not the first) detailing the comments, ideas and experiences of people with a wide variety of disabilities – blindness, deafness, autism, chronic pain, depression, and so on (the original tweets that inspired it can be found here). Despite myself, I found myself sharing my own experiences and those of others, and even found myself confronting some of my own attitudes that can be unintentionally hurtful to those who share my disability or who face different challenges entirely. It’s not always a pretty picture, but I found a companion hashtag (#TheAcceptingScript) that showed that being willing to listen and learn is the key to avoid portraying myself as ableist or, perhaps even worse, heartless and cruel).
I have faced many instances of ableism myself over the years, some much more hurtful and demeaning than others. I don’t get hung up on language and such unless someone is just getting weird about it, but treating me like a child or someone who can’t perform basic tasks without even asking is definitely not okay. From being the only student in a post-secondary program forced to find a practicum before being accepted, to being turned down for jobs because of my perceived abilities, to being talked over at medical appointments, you think I would be used to it. In fact, I think the opposite is true. Since there’s only so much I can fit into a 140-character tweet, I figured I would post this as a poem, of sorts; perhaps those who experience pain and anger they can’t express may find some comfort, and I hope that this can show (in an unthreatening way) what it feels like to me to face comments, silence, and awkward interactions every day.
I had a job interview today.
Got myself all dressed up, with a perfect resume.
The longer the interview goes, the more comfortable I feel.
I was born for this job.
But I am told there’s no way I can perform all job duties; I know this is untrue.
Thanks for my time.
Should I thank them for theirs?
I’m standing at a bus stop, waiting.
It’s been a long day.
My eyes are burning and I am exhausted.
I am approached and told how cute my dog is.
I say thank you.
I am asked more questions about my guide dog, but none about myself.
I feel like I can’t redirect the conversation.
Am I invisible?
I decide to pick up some groceries;
I will need some assistance.
My arm is grabbed without warning
And I am expected to be polite
Because they were only trying to help.
But why not just ask first?
I am told I am pretty
For someone with a disability.
This has never made sense to me.
Would I be more attractive if my eyes worked?
Or if they did, would I just be average looking?
Why not just tell me I have nice hair or colouring or am wearing a nice shirt?
I’m on the bus home now,
My few groceries on my lap.
I am asked why there is no one out there taking care of me,
Shouldn’t someone be picking up my milk and eggs and apples for me?
I say that I can do this myself, especially since I am making dinner tonight.
I can hear the concern; I could get hurt cutting those apples.
I need to be protected from sharp objects.
But I have tools and ways of cooking safely,
But it’s easier to assume and attempt to protect me.
Why am I not asked HOW I stay safe?
I have been told that I am lucky that my husband can see,
That He is a good man for taking care of me.
He is a good man, for simply being my husband.
I take care of him, too.
Is that so hard to understand?
I am told that I am brave and inspirational
For being blind out in public.
Not locked away somewhere
Like my blindness is something to be ashamed of.
Do they hear what they’re saying?
Really hear it?
Am I the only one?