If this is the first time that you have had a visit to my blog, I'd like to extend a big welcome. I hope you'll look around some more. For this year's Blogging Against Disablism Day (my very first), I thought I'd start with 2 lists. Their connection to the mission of BADD will become clear beneath. In no particular order...
How I'd like others to treat me:
- With respect
- Interact with me as you would with anyone else my chronological age-even if my head's not always there
- Don't cut me any slack
- Recognize that sometimes standards may need to be tweaked
Expectations are different than standards. I am expected to present myself in a professional manner. I am expected to meet deadlines. But maybe in order to meet that deadline I need to be told in advance of other people so that I have more time to get myself together. That to me is a standard.
- Push me past my limit
This is what I can do and this is what I cannot do. I've spent 23 years with cerebral palsy. No one can know that better than me. But people evolve. Sometimes I'm stuck in what I could do 5 years ago; or 10 years ago. Maybe I can do things I don't think are possible. I don't know for sure until I try again. I've been surprised lately.
- Be patient with me
I'm going to try your patience. A lot. For the most part it is not intentional. Sometimes I can amaze you one minute and then turn around and do the opposite the next. Human beings are by their very nature imperfect. I'm not exempt from this. This does not mean that I want you to let me off the hook. What I would like is for you to remember to take a deep breath and move forward from where we are at the moment.
- Tell me what you're thinking
I'm absolutely horrible at interpreting normal social cues. No one is a mind reader, but I'm much worse than most. I'd like to improve on this. I need to improve on this if I want to function in society. But I can't improve on this if you don't help me.
- Ask questions
If you don't know how to appropriately handle a situation or if you are not sure why I seem to be having trouble with something, just ask me. I don't mind and in fact, I wish that you would. It benefits us both.
- Remember how hard I'm trying now
While I was born with CP, I only found out I was bipolar 6 months ago. I'm treading in completely new territory. It's scary and it's overwhelming. But I'm working to figure it out with everything I've got. It's the hardest thing I've ever had to do. Sometimes I'm going to have an off day. Again, the worst thing you can do for me is to let me off the hook. This is always going to be a part of my life. I need to learn how to handle it. All I'm asking is for you to not make a judgment call.
- Help me to channel my strong will
Strong will is not a bad thing. In my view it is the best attribute that an advocate can have. But my strong will gets me in a lot of hot water. Sometimes I might need a gentle reminder to check myself.
How I'd like to treat myself:
- With patience
Rome wasn't built in a day. I'm trying a lot of new things at once. I would like to have mastered them all last week, but that didn't happen. That's ok, because I know that one day everything will finally click.
- Realistically-push myself, but not too far
What am I really able to do? Sometimes I'm going to need to give that some super serious thought.
- Find a balance
Doing nothing is not healthy. Doing too much also is not healthy. Sometimes I feel like goldilocks. It is very important to find what is "just right."
- As an adult
Even though I might not feel like an adult and even though sometimes my head isn't there, I am 23. Fake it til you make it.
- Remember that sometimes standards need to be tweaked, and that's ok
As much as I want to be treated like everyone else, sometimes equal does not mean exactly the same. I'm going to need help. It's an inherent fact of my life. I've quoted this post before: "It just seems so odd to me that people think more highly of me now that I am actively seeking/accepting help then before when I was just as actively pushing it away. Logic says that it should be a sign of weakness."
- Continue to express my needs
Remember that just like I can't read other people's minds, they cannot read mine either. How can they know what I don't tell them?
- Forget what I know
I've done too many research papers. The vast majority of statics that pertain to PWDs are grim. In fact, they scare the crap out of me. But who ever said that I have to be a statistic?
- Focus on my strengths but don't ignore my weaknesses
Sometimes I do need to be hard on myself but yet, sometimes I go overboard and am too hard on myself.
- Put myself in other's shoes
Yeah, I'm bad at interpersonal skills. Does that let me off the hook? How did whomever perceive what I just did or said? It's important to consider.
- Remember that it can never hurt to try, but it can hurt not to try
What does any of this have to do with ableism? Well I'm trying to get people I'm interacting with to get on board with this. I say things to people, I write them emails, and then they turn around and let things slide, let me get away with things they wouldn't let other people get away with. That my friends, is blatant ableism-the fact that people unconsciously have set lower expectations for me because they do not think I am capable of meeting the ones that they set for everyone else. It's frustrating. I got up to my maximum dose of my new bipolar medication 5 days before spring semester started. When they kicked in I was off for a few weeks. I went up to professors and told them this and then they really let things slide. I was getting away with murder. People weren't taking me seriously because gosh, the girl has CP and bipolar, it must be so hard. You know what, it is hard. Really hard. But not holding me to expectations, or thinking that I am too fragile to be pushed, that does more harm then good. It severely impedes my functioning. That's not fair to me.
I'm sitting here with the 10pg research paper I completed in July for my independent study right beside me. It's on the history of ableism. It covers general statistics (those evil things that scare me half to death), historical views (including the concepts of the Tiny Tim and supercrip), The medical and charity models, the social model, and then sums up what an accessible society should look like as according to Mary Johnson. In her book Make Them Go Away, she says "that equality means, in fact, that sometimes people have to be treated differently, given different accommodations in order to achieve equal rights" (pg 205). In a truly accessible society it is celebrated and taken for granted that everyone (both disabled and AB) have different strengths and weakness. Like Johnson says, I feel that we as a collective want to be viewed "by society [as] just people-not different in any critical way from other people" (pg 204).
I know that's all I'm asking for.