How The Disability Blame-Game Works

Having a distinctive trait that separates you from “normal” can easily become a go-to excuse for all of life’s problems. When that trait is living with a disability, it can soon mean that nearly everything is fair game to be blamed on physical impairment. Much of this blame may be legitimate, like “Oh, I can’t go to your house because you have stairs, no strong people to carry me, and you’re just another jerk who won’t build a ramp.” Or, “Oh, no, little child who wants to play in my wheelchair, you can’t because I actually can’t get up”

These physical/spacial barriers in life (stairs, small spaces, hilly places, inaccessible bathrooms, secret coves) are the easiest to pin-down as #disability problems, but from there on in things get a little messy. As a wheelie, I have time-and-time again asked myself “Is this me, or my disability?” usually pertaining to issues of employment, schooling, friendships, sexships, everything ever. It’s a burning question, and is always sitting comfortably in the back of my mind.Here’s a breakdown of ways disability can bare the brunt of blame for issues other than physical blockades. Keep in mind that this blog is based mainly on my experience and the experiences of other disabled people who have been kind enough to share their thoughts with me.

Jobs/ Job Problems:

Negative internalizations about disability are a real bitch. In the realm of employment, if you get a job, you often wonder if you only got it because the company had to fill their disability quota. If you don’t get the job, you might wonder if it’s because the company didn’t want to take-on whatever accommodations you may require–be it more office space or general awareness of your disability issues.

Either way, if you’re accepted or rejected in the employment world, it’s almost impossible to figure out what’s your fault as a person and what’s an unchangeable result stemming from your disabled status.

Another thing encountered in the work environment is genuine surprise when you complete a task well. This is not meant to bash anyone, but sometimes I think people are unwittingly baffled when disabled people are actually being useful, as it doesn’t fit with engrained stereotypes, and our perma-spot as the “needy wheelie”. When this happens, it causes the PwD to question themselves in a “Did they expect me to fail?” way. It also plants doubt about whether compliments are genuine, like, “Did I do good by human standards, or wheelie ones?”(which are inevitably lower, since your life is harder—we expect less of you, don’t worry).

If you take disability out of the equation, it’s a little bit easier to breath. When you get rejected, it’s because you weren’t qualified, or your bedside manner sucks, or you blew the interview, like the fool that you are. All of these reasons are manageable things that can be improved upon/changed. Disability not so much.

Relationships:

I feel bad about addressing this, because I write about it often, and also because I suspect I’d be nearly as awful at friendships and relationships if I were able-bodied. The questions around social relations with others revolve (again) around not knowing whether your excluded because of your disability or your personality. I only went to one high-school party in my entire 4 years, and the whole time I was beyond baffled that I had even been invited. Sometime during my high-school period, I had 2 child-like high-school “relationships”, who I thought of as: “people who liked to look at me, laugh at my jokes, and make me terribly squeamish by holding my hand”.  Clearly, thriving in the social world was not my thing, and while I was well-liked, I was never really accepted.

It remains a mystery how much disability has contributed to my social troubles. My inability to achieve peer acceptance could be two parts Kristen’s really fucking intense and one part I’m disabled, how does socializing happen? In truth, I just don’t know what’s what, and it’s really tough to know when I need to take on the task of self improvement.

I originally wrote more, but this post is becoming overly self indulgent, so its ending here. Knowing the lines to draw regarding what is and isn’t a result of being disabled would help me individually, as well as helping other PwD to acknowledge and understand the roots of some of their struggles better.

…And for this reason, they should have shrinks who dedicate themselves entirely to clients living the wheelie life. I’d pay big bucks to be a part of that.

Textbook Disability

As a reward for reading about things my heart only half-cares about, I bribed myself with the incentive of reading my textbook’s chapter on disability only after I had finished the social agency and poverty chapters. Disability chapter was like my brownie cake dessert after my brussell sprouts of poverty and social agency had disappeared.

Anyway, here I am all amped up and ready to indulge my narcissism and read about myself, when my heart fell out my butt. The Disability chapter of my text, thoughtfully named “Persons with Disabilities: Barriers to Their Full Participation in Society,” was divided into two parts: Actual (physical) barriers, and Disabled (psychological) issues. In my experience reading general info on PwD, the disabled psychological issues usually blabs on about learned helplessness and overprotective parents and waking up on a tear-stained pillow (depression and its comorbidity with physical impairments), but this chaptImageer, in all its 13 pages took things a step further. It had the gull to talk about the results of internalization of disability, and pretty specifically, too. The nerve.

My first instinct when reading things that fly too close to home is to drop everything and go look at pictures of unhappy cats, but in the interest of better understanding my own life, the cats went on the back burner. What I found instead was this gem of sadness, cut straight from a disabled person’s heart:

For many [PwD], these [negative] feelings and self-evaluations can become barriers that impede them from achieving the maximum of which they are capable.[…] Examples of personal barriers are a sense of poor self esteem resulting in low self esteem, fear of rejection and/or retaliation by authority figures and non disabled people in general.

In not so many words, the textbook is notifying all social-workers-to-be that there’s a high chance disabled clients will spontaneously cry in their office. It’s also explaining the emotional root for some of the issues associated with disability. Low self-esteem from low-body image and self concept results in a self-made barrier.

The textbook seems to take a go-all-out approach to discussing emotional issues common to disability, as it also says,

If steps are not taken to rectify inequality, the disabled memebers [ha. I’ll show you my disabled member] may feel their disability makes them less disirable, less valued, and less productive than others without disability. Unless they recieve support from others about their worth, they are likely to develop feelings of low self-esteem and powerlessness. Out of such issues emerge feelings of bitterness, resentment, self-pity and fear of isolation and isolation.

I kind of wish the text had closed their tragic statements with, “Good luck with that,” and stopped there. But it goes on to discuss how these negative feelings often interplay with over protective parents/siblings (Brent and Kyle <3), and how that turns into a generally bad situation quicker than you can say lifesabitchthanyoudie.

Having the reasons for the deep unrelenting blackness of my core laid out in text form is gravely grave, and a bit annoying. Thing is, I don’t feel like my self-esteem has always been in the negatives, nor do I feel like it will stay there. In fact, I can remember being 21 and being arrogant in many respects. Then a bunch of stuff happened and I forgot myself for a bit. And now I’m here, writing things about things. I don’t know whether to be delight or torn up that the belly of my emotional turmoil has been summed up in two short quotes. Fuck you textbook, you dont know me, you dont know my life. My parents are DIVORCED.

What about you guys? Wheelie or not, do you feel like there is one catastrophic, life-altering event that can bare the brunt of your sadness? If you are a person with a disability, does this make you cringe?Maybe it gives us an excuse to live at the LCBO. Or maybe it’s real.