I don’t want this to come off as me doubting Gill’s experiences, but reading through this list of things she says are generally assumed about people with disabilities, I know how every sighted person who has ever said to me “People don’t really do that, do they?” feels. I am bemused, befuddled, and probably several other things if I sit here and think long enough by some of these. Others? Yeah, people really do those all the time.
We all make judgements about people, whether from experience, media, or what we have been told as our lives plot course. In my nearly four decades of living, and living with disabilities I have been pre-judged, sometimes in ways unexpected.
- Over or under sexualized – This is more common than you think. Many people assume that sexually nothing’s going on with a disabled person. The flipside of that is something called devotees, these people get turned on by people or objects relating to disability. There are also some disabled people who E.G. for reasons of brain injury or something similar may be legitimately addicted to sex.
- That we all like the same things – Some of us do, for many years I belonged to a ski team, but to say that just because your sister’s boyfriend’s cousin who happens to have Downs Syndrome and likes bowling doesn’t mean they all do.
- That we’re racist – I must confess racial slurs or racist jokes not only boil my potatoes, but make my skin crawl. So next time your out with oh let’s say your blind friend and you feel that Mexican joke coming on, just pause.
- That we’re all super-inspiring – I sing the hymns at church just as well as my friend Nicole, so don’t make a deal out of it. The term today is inspiration porn, and in case your wondering that boils my potatoes also.
- We all live with our parents or in facilities – I actually live around a hundred and twenty miles from where I grew up, and I love my folks, but I like my privacy and the option to plot my own course.
- We all know each other- Of course I know your cousin Diane, she slept with my boyfriend twenty years ago! No, we don’t all know each other.
- All disabled people are obese – Well it is true in some disabilities it may not be the fault of the person. Medications and underlying conditions may be a contributing factor.
- We all have bad hygiene – People who show severe levels of discomfort around especially mentally challenged people say it’s the odor most of them give off. Some, in my case have accused us of bringing bed bugs in. That’s wrong, anyone could have bad odor from work or running.
- We all like each other – That’s the furthest thing from the truth, in fact we back stab and in fight just as much if not more than our able bodied counterparts.
- We’re submissive and compliant – Not true, now we’re finding our voices, and expressing our wants more than ever. Gone are the days of the so called “model handicapped` who did as they were told.
- We only want to be around others like us – Not so much, depending on how a person was brought up and experiences they had it’s dead even. Some choose to integrate fully, others one foot in the other out, and others stay with “their own kind.`
- We’re perfectly ok being called special or handicapped – Wrong! Wrong! A million times wrong! As a child in the mid 1980’s the term special got tossed around like a football, in the media and in life. I would hardly consider myself special, I consider myself rather average. Ok, I’m going there, I think the term handicapped is similar to someone walking up to my friend Shaneaka and using the N word.
- That it’s ok to stare or even take a picture – This picture taking actually happened to my friend Jeff, someone so inspired by his story of surviving the Kmare Rouge pulled out their camera phone and started snapping photos. My friend, not to be out done got his phone took some pics, and told the person, “it’s amazing that your village hasn’t located you yet. It’s inspiring to see an actual village idiot up close.`
- We’re all child molesters – This goes back to the whole over under thing I mentioned. This also pertains to blind or mentally challenged people, this myth could have started because of several mentally challenged men arrested for sexual offenses, and because blind people do a lot of work by touch.
- We don’t mind if you manhandle us – The flipside of that is this, when people try to help especially blind people they may not be versed in how. Some people have actually walked up, touched me, sometimes on my butt, and asked if I need help. FYI nowadays as at anytime no still means no.
- That we’re all suicidal – Now depression rates vary from disability to disability, but just because your brother’s girlfriend’s cousin with cerebral palsy was depressed, doesn’t mean we all are.
- We’re perpetual Polly-anna’s – The flipside of that is the constantly cheerful face some people just expect. Granted some are very cheerful, but not all of us. FYI until I have had my coffee I relate more to a bear than anything else.
- We all like certain types of music – One common misconception is we all like oldies from the 1950’s and 60’s, or we like old country. Not true, I like some very obscure stuff, but I also like modern music.
- We’re all slobs – This again is mostly a misconception about blind people. I must say that I’ve seen some snazzie stuff on people with disabilities, and some ables who could care less.
- We’re extremes – People will meet one person,E.G. a blind person who wants to blow up their parents home, and assume we’re all like that. Or on the other side is the blind or any kind of disabled person so afraid to watch anything harder than Disney Cartoons. I must admit that I can’t stand violent TV shows or movies, but that has more to do with the fact that I was prohibited from watching them in the home.
- We’re all musicologists – Applying to certain disabilities it is assumed by lots of people E.G. even my own parents, that especially blind people know every song ever written.
- We don’t date or marry – Some do some don’t, but a sad fact of it is many of us will die single.
- We’re obsessed with tragedy- This could be as a result of how we grew up, or who we hung out with. Not all of us, however, talk about death all the time.
- If we do date and marry it’s to someone else with a disability – This sits on the hinterland, and greatly depends on one’s experiences.
- Women stay with abusive partners – Having been engaged to an abuser I know first hand of the shunning I received from other people with disabilities for not “taking what I could get.`
- All relationships between people with disabilities are abusive – There are increased control issues some of the time, but most are your average garden variety relationship with ups and downs.
What assumptions have you heard? What assumptions have been made about you? Have you pre-judged someone without truly knowing them? What’s the craziest question you’ve been asked?