Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Disablism: Fact or Fiction?

I've only recently become familiar with this term, in fact, until yesterday, I'd never heard it. Perhaps that says something about the predominantly white state that I live in. What bother's me further though, is that even though I'm only 23-years-old, in the past 6 years I've already made a career of working with people who have mental, cognitive, and physical disabilities. If anyone should've heard this word by now I feel like I should have at least been eavesdropping.

I do see that this is a problem, and I've always seen that it's a problem. In some ways, everyone partakes in disablism, much in the same way that most of us white folks take advantage of racism, but rarely do we notice or discuss that it's being done. In fact, it took me a sociology class focused on inequalities before I truly recognized how screwed up we is with this discrimination thing.

Many of us actively practice racism, sexism, and disablism in our everyday lives and never even notices it.

Think about it, when was the last time that you stared at a black or African-American person standing across the street while in an unfamiliar town and worried about what might happen, or thought that, based on the way they were dressed, they obviously aren't doing enough for themselves?

And in kind, have you never done a double take at a well-endowed woman in a low cut top? Or perhaps a long legged beauty in a short skirt? What about a tall dark and handsome man in a freshly pressed suit? Or that hunky football player at the mall? See, this might start an argument, but women do participate in some of these things too, although when it comes to sexism, men do seem to take the cake, don't we? Too bad.

It works the same way with disability rights, you see a person in a wheelchair and you stare, even if only for a brief moment, and you never think to actually speak to the person, you just make your glances. Trust me, they notice. That guy at McDonald's who was throwing a fit because he didn't get the super size on his value meal, he noticed that you were smirking, smiling, laughing, staring, glaring, and all unapologetically and without understanding.

The greeter at the local department store, the one who's always staring at the floor, he's just looking for you to say "hi" back to him. He doesn't need you to hear his life story, it's not a bar or a bistro, and you haven't asked, just say "hi" and take his flyer. Then he can feel the purpose in his job that you get to feel in yours.

You may still be telling yourself that I'm a nut, that this stuff just doesn't happen, but can I just simply ask why you honestly believe that in 6 years of working with this community I've never seen any of this? Or furthermore, why I'd just make it up?

If you want more info on how disablism is not only grabbing our country, but not being recognized, check out this link: http://www.raggededgemagazine.com/departments/closerlook/000947.html

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