What is Disablism?
Disablism is discrimination based on disability. I’ve faced a bit of it, but overall I’ve been very lucky. I know that many people go through a lot worse than I do, and don’t feel as comfortable as I do standing up for themselves when it does happen. I’ve also been lucky to have a family to stand up for me when I’ve been unable to.
I’ve been working with people with disabilities since I was 15 years old, and blatant disablism has always been infuriating. However, it’s the quieter forms that are more insidious and that don’t get nearly as much attention.
The Disablism of Overprotection
For example…we are really reluctant to let people with disabilities (especially intellectual disabilities) make mistakes.
I once worked with a family where a young adult female with an intellectual disability really wanted to move into her own place. Her parents were very opposed to the idea. They were concerned that she’d made bad decisions about men in particular, and get herself into a bad situation.
I was willing to concede that she didn’t have particularly good judgement when it came to men. But my record wasn’t stellar, either. In fact, every one of my women friends that I could think of had one or more relationship skeletons that came out at least partly out of choices on her part that she thought were fine at the time, but that she really regretted later.
Of course we’d continue to make relationship safety skills part of the preparatory training for moving out. But was it really fair to say “No, you can’t move out,” because she might make a dating mistake? A budgeting mistake? A cooking mistake? I wouldn’t be living by myself if we held people without disabilities to those sorts of standards…would you?
I don’t advocate deliberately putting people in dangerous situations or situations that they can’t handle in order to prove a point. And I understand the impulse to want to protect a loved one with a disability from situations where they might experience failure or hurt feelings or potential danger. But it *is* a form of disablism to deny people chances to learn and grow and discern just what they’re capable of, even if that means experiencing failure or disappointment.
A well-rounded person knows how to deal with failure and disappointment. You can’t learn those skills if you’ve never been allowed to experience either.
Let’s reduce disablism by allowing people with disabilities to have a fully human experience, and all the associated emotions. It’s often difficult enough to have to live with disabilities without the overprotection of others on top.
More about Blogging Against Disablism: http://blobolobolob.blogspot.ca/2012/05/blogging-against-disablism-day-2012.html