Of Pride And PrejudicePosted: September 22, 2008 | |
There are few things that will drive me into a rage faster than the able bodied discriminating against the disabled. I suppose that human rights are such a rare commodity that there isn’t enough of them for everybody. Those of us who cannot keep up with the young and healthy are just second class citizens. Maybe we are not even citizens at all. After all, many of us need reasonable accommodations. We need curb cuts, and beepers in the traffic lights to help us cross the streets. Some of us may even need help in crossing the street.
I have chronic pain issues which preclude me from driving. I have not been behind the wheel since I was sixteen years old. I hate it when people look at me like I was from Mars and ask “how can you survive without a car?” It certainly can be done. I’ve been doing it for 34 years. It takes ingenuity and persistence. I am more prepared for the coming oil crunch than most of you guys. I can just picture myself staring at you like you were from Mars and saying, “how could you survive this long without knowing the public transit schedules?”
One of the things that really pisses me off is when the able bodied compare disabilities. “There are people in wheelchairs who can drive,” I am told over and over again. I don’t know what keeps me from beating these idiots to death with a dead halibut. People in wheelchairs have special controls installed in their cars. There is no such accommodation for my disability. Also, not all wheelchair users are the same. Some wheelchair users are too weak in the arms to use hand controls. Others lack coordination. Disabilities are not a cookie-cutter situation. There are other people with chronic pain and weakness in the legs who can easily drive.
Of course, not all disabilities are visible. The able bodied can see if you are blind or in a wheelchair. That makes you an object of pity. You are somebody they can feel superior to while proving their compassion. There are many disabilities which are not visible, and that’s when the hard core bigotry comes out. I brought up an autistic son who did not match the able bodied “Rain Man” preconceptions of autism. “I don’t see anything wrong with him,” I heard over and over again. “He’s just spoiled,” said others. One real loser, the former head of CAW’s children’s ministry, had the nerve to lay hands on him.
Denial is not just a river in Egypt, it is also the basis of the able bodied prejudice against the disabled. It is so much easier for the able bodied to simply make believe that invisible disabilities don’t exist. If they don’t conform to Dustin Hoffman’s terrible rendition in “Rain Man,” then autistics don’t exist. If the blind do not wear dark glasses and carry canes, then they are not blind. If the disabled don’t conform to their preconceptions, then of course they are just making it up.
We have the ADA and the Californians with Disabilities Act, which is a start. These laws serve the same purpose as the Civil Rights Act. They are not there to destroy prejudice. That would be impossible. We are always going to have stupid people amongst us. The true purpose is to educate people that prejudice exists. This means we are going to need these laws for a long, long, time.