Us vs. Them

I’ve been part of the disability community for roughly 41 years.  When I experienced my spinal cord injury, it was the late 70s.  Disability rights was in its embronic stages, if you could even call it that.  My parents were amazing despite having almost no resources to learn how to raise a child with a disability.

One of the first things they taught me was to do as much as I could by myself before asking for help.  I took it that extra 500 steps beyond that and almost never asked for help, if I could help it.  My parents also taught me that people will not understand about my disability, but to treat everyone with respect and kindness.  They also taught me that the people around me, given a chance, could be a blessing when I needed it most.

So when I was going through my Twitter feed the other day, there was a comment made by one of my fellow disabled person where she called able-boded people “ableds”.  So before I go forward with what upset me about this let’s go over a bit of a glossary for the uninitiated.

  • Disability – not a swear word.  Its a descriptor indicating that a person’s body does not work at the expected level of function as the larger population at large’s does, also known as normative.
  • Able-bodied – people whose bodies operate at a level of function expected for most people. In other words, people who can walk, talk, see, hear, or have normative mental cognition.
  • Ableds – a divisive word to describe the able-bodied.

Ableds. In context, it was being used to rail against something an able-bodied person had done to the disabled person. The political climate in this country is so polarized that people have gotten too used to having an us vs. them mentality. If you’re not with us, you’re against us. The problem is that real life is really not that black and white, no matter how many people would like to say otherwise.

Abled-bodied people are not the enemy. Let me repeat that – able-bodied people are not the enemy. Ignorance is the enemy. But how do you expect anyone to learn something you want them to know and understand if you’re throwing out divisive terms like ‘ableds’?

So, what is it that we, the disability community, want from ‘ableds’? We want to be taken seriously. We are the largest minority group in the world, and yet we get the least funding and the least consideration from governments and agencies. The products and services that give us the quality of life are often times overly-expensive, hard to obtain, or substandard. We have to fight tooth and nail with local governments and business owners so that we can go where we want and patronize the businesses we want without worrying about barriers to entrances, sidewalks, and local transportation.

I’m sure you’ve been nodding your head to all of these examples. The problem is when you use a divisive term like ‘ableds’, how much more likely is it that the thing that you want for your quality of life will be denied to you simply because you’ve just insulted the person that you’re going to for help or consideration? Only toddlers stamp their feet and demand they get what they want. And historically, this tactic has almost never worked.

We need to galvanize ourselves and gather together as the many squeaky wheels will get the grease. We have to keep supporting those that advocate for us, able-bodied and disabled alike. We can advocate for ourselves. We can protest, write letters, post on social media – basically make yourself heard. These are the tactics that minority groups have used to effect lasting change. Change that changes people’s minds, not close them off.

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