Cherry Picking

Okay, other disabled people, I have a question for you. Have you ever noticed that non-disabled people in your life seem to pick and choose what aspects of your disability they will and will not deal with? This is the friend who will come over and visit, but not go out because finding a wheelchair accessible restaurant is just too hard. This is the person who will understand what it is like to encounter an inaccessible building, but will not understand how socializing can be inaccessible. This is the individual who knows all about your deafness and moves heaven and earth to accommodate it, but thinks you should maybe just try harder to be less depressed.
Society creates disability. Society makes dealing with the disability the responsibility of the disabled person. Our loved ones further add to the situation by cheery picking the consequences of our disabilities they do and do not wish to cope with. In this age of unconditional love, disability is somehow outside the bounds of what those who love us are expected to handle. It’s somehow too much to ask or expect.
I guess I’ve missed all the chances in my life I’ve been given to “decide” if I wish to deal with this or that aspect of my disabilities. Maybe the offer was tendered in print?
Should such a proposition have been made, for my entire adult life, I would have replied that disability is a package deal and to separate it is akin to selling a house one room at a time.
Lately the conditionality with which those around me “accept” my disabilities has begun to irritate me in a way I cannot dismiss. Maybe if the conditionality was explained in terms of their shortcomings. “Jen, I want to drag you to this movie, but I don’t think I can describe it. What can I do?” Instead, people just conveniently assume, despite me saying the contrary, that I can’t go to movies. Or maybe if it was broached forthrightly. “Jen, what do we do about my other friends who don’t know how to interact with a blind person?” Unfortunately, in its place, I’m left to fend for myself.
More and more, I’ve been feeling like one of those boxes you get at a yard sale or auction. You bought it for the cool bowl on top. When you get it home, you sort through and set aside what you want and what you will discard.
Well, I’ve decided I’m no longer a yard sale box. I haven’t yet figured out how you go about manifesting such a decision in the real world.

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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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