Everyone’s Just Like Me

I sometimes forget the rest of you aren’t disabled like me. While listening to television, I will hear a character walking down a city street and wonder why I cannot hear the tap of their cane. Friends list what they are going to-do in the coming day and I question how they can even think of such a monumental effort that will leave them exhausted for days. And doesn’t everyone read books with their ears while washing the dishes? Can’t everyone follow directions that would work navigating a route with your cane?

If you think about it, forgetting everyone is not like me shows a certain level of self-acceptance. Many people see their disability in negative terms which makes them keenly aware others do not have such burdens. Others accept their condition with a balanced view of they are always aware that their circumstances are not typical. Crazy little me goes one step beyond that so alright with my situation that I assume the rest of you are happily dealing with it as well. I’m not different because the rest of you are blindly moving through the world making certain you do not exhaust yourselves.

On the other hand, I could just be incredibly self-centered. I am so wrapped up in how I relate to the world that I can’t be bothered to remember the rest of you function differently.

It is also possible the entire thing can be blamed on ingrained behavior. By now, I don’t need to think about what to do when I misplace my cell pone – I call it. I automatically grab my cane when I leave the house. I would never, under any circumstances, put a spice bottle back on a different shelf. I would find it literally impossible to put a clean knife in to the dish rack point up. These adaptive behaviors have reached the level of instincts so no wonder I forget the rest of you function in other ways.

Turn about is fair play and from time to time people forget about one of my disabilities. Usually, they ask if I can smell something and I give a sarcastic answer before laughing.

Unfortunately, when people who do not know me well forget I’m blind and are then reminded, they sometimes say things like, “Well, think of it as a compliment.” That stops my mirth. Apparently, the praise comes from the fact that I function so ell that I do not behave as if I am blind. This means the person has a preconceived notion of what a blind person can do and when I exceed it by behaving like the rest of the human race, I have accomplished some laudable feat. In my mind, surpassing low expectations isn’t achieving some lofty goal. If a woman lifts something extremely heavy, nobody assumes she is a man because women can’t lift great weights. When a high school valedictorian applies to a college, it would be considered racist to conclude they are white. Assuming an Asian person is a computer wiz has become a cliché. So, why should I be flattered when somebody assumes blind people aren’t as competent as the rest of humankind?

This is not to say I am not worthy of praise for I have adapted to my circumstances better than some. I have great coping tools developed over years of refusing to accept those lowered expectations as part of the reality I inhabit. My skills reflect time, energy, creative thinking and obstinacy.

And somehow I’ve managed to end another post by telling you why I should be praised. This has got to stop. Seriously.

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About Jen

After acquiring a degree from Vassar College in psychology, I moved to Western Mass where I ran a peer mentoring network for disabled college students as well as activism and organizing around disability issues. I also conducted research on disabled women’s body image. An Upstate New York native, I eventually followed my heliotropic nature to the sun of Southern California. I divide my time between writing (disability fiction and essays) along with moderating San Diego Bisexual Forum which is one of the oldest groups of its kind in the country. In my off hours I can often be found in my neighborhood live music venue enjoying our local talent.

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