Tag Archives: disableism

WHY CLAIMING “DISABILITY” DOES NOT ENABLE US

The essay below was written as a comment to this article posted on Facebook….

https://www.chronicle.com/article/Why-I-Dread-the-Accommodations/239571

There was much hew and cry about how ableist the writer of this article was. Here is my response.

“I’m asking for information here, as I do not understand the comments above. Please explain why this was “ableist” and offensive.

“To understand where I’m coming from, you should know that No accommodations were EVER available or suggested when I was a young college student with evident but undiagnosed narcolepsy, and diagnosed psychosis.

“To me, given that I had extraordinary difficulties in school, from high school and college and on into medical school, which I eventually quit, the notion that a professor would talk to me calmly about how my disabilities manifested was unthinkable. But what  was also unthinkable was that I consider myself “disabled”. I was not taught from a young age, or when extreme daytime sleepiness manifested itself, along with cataplexy during laughter, I was not taught that I deserved special accommodations for this. I did not learn to think of myself as disabled, though in fact narcolepsy and psychosis did severely impinge on my ability to function, and threatened my “future”…Because of my difficulties, I was only able to take 3 academic courses per semester, that is, 3 credits, plus a half credit for taking private recorder lessons. I did try to ask for help, in the form of delayed paper deadlines etc. And as a rule i was yelled at or worse, treated with utter contempt for making such requests…But, and this is important, despite my difficulties or disabilities, I did not learn to term mySELF disabled because of them.

“I have always had a big problem with this, the demand that I accept mySELF as disabled, or as the old word put it, invalid. Just as I now reject all psychiatric labels as false, and both dehumanizing and stigmatizing in their imposition as well as their acceptance because they label a person not just a problem, similarly I reject the label of “disabled” because it implies mySELF is disabled…I as a self (or soul, in old time parlance) am not disabled. No one is! We have certain differences, yes, but name me a single person who does not in some fashion differ from the imaginary and meaningless “norm”. Like many, i have nominally accepted the designation in order to get certain sources of necessary income, but in my true and inner self I never acquiesced to the idea that I am “permanently and totally disabled”. No. No. No.

“Yes, it is true I cannot and never could work an 8-hour day, 5 days or even 1 day a week, but that does NOT mean there is a single thing wrong with me, only that society is wrong to 1) demand it 2) decree that no other mode of living is acceptable.

“I am glad I never learned to FEEL disabled or deserving of special accommodations, even though had they been offered my life might have been very different. But having had a very, very difficult life  — and I’m 66 now — does not in my view make me either disabled or special. It gave me things an easy life would not have, and I learned much more compassion and understanding from having to struggle. “Failure” at a job or even at “functioning” in this society is not indicative of a global failure of self, or some inability to be, fully and competently mySELF, and I refuse to accept that my disabilities, my lack of ability to pass as a competently 9-5 working adult somehow makes me disabled. If I had learned to think that way, I doubt I would ever have found my art abilities at age 55 or started, at age 65, to pursue a new passion for the French language. If I felt disabled or that I deserved special treatment rather than that I could in fact do more than most people, but at a different pace and at a very different time of life than this youth-centered society expects, I would have obliged them and never done a thing.

“A self is not disabled by virtue of having a disabling symptom or aspect to themselves. A self is only disabled by *thinking* that they are disabled. But this thought in my view is life-killing and potential-killing. And despite cries to the contrary, I don’t think “disabled-me”-thinking serves the lives of those in the community of people with disabilities.”