It’s not very often I use my blog to get on my soapbox, I try to use it more as a way of explaining things or raising awareness. I also like to give people the benefit of the doubt and try to work out why people act or behave towards me (as someone with an illness or a disability) in a certain way.
People are too quick to judge. I do not mean strangers who glare at me or who ‘check’ my disabled badge is displayed when I get out of the car, I don’t bother myself with them. I can think of many reasons why people who do not know me may act like that, and ‘because they’re narrow minded or ignorant’ is pretty far down the list (because they think they’re doing good in some way, because they think that people abuse the spaces etc are some examples). I’m talking about people who either know me or who shouldn’t be predispositioned to judge.
I’d like to make the point that I am not an aggressive disabled person who almost looks for an opportunity to confront people with a ‘not all disabilities are visible’ statement. I’d just like to get on with things without judgements being made. Here are some examples.
I’m well aware of which ‘friends’ questioned/continue to question my illness, making comments behind my back. I (perhaps naively) assumed that because I explained things to them, they wouldn’t make judgements as to my ability to do things, but clearly I was wrong. They obviously weren’t really friends to begin with. Examples include ‘well you could do x last week so why can’t you now’ or ‘you look like you manage loads of stuff on Facebook but you’re saying you can’t…’ – this one in particular is an entire post in itself.
Strangers who ‘should know better’
I often get quizzical glances when I get out of my car seemingly able bodied. You can’t see what’s happening to my body when I walk because I can physically put one foot in front of the other. People peer through my windscreen or sometimes stop walking or double back to check up on me. Most of these people I ignore but it’s upsetting when these people are off duty nurses or doctors or carers in uniform because they should know that not all illnesses are visible. Their intentions might be good but it still bothers me that they’ve chosen to make a judgement.
People who know me
I went to my home church recently and didn’t stand up for the hymns because I was having a bad day. A woman singing in the choir, whom I’ve known for about 20 years, spent the entire time glaring at me. She probably thought I was disrespectful. Maybe she was curious. But she’s a Christian (so shouldn’t be judgemental at all!) and also she knows me and my character. I tried to remind myself that maybe I was mistakenly judging her looking at me for staring and therefore making a judgement of my own. But it wasn’t just once, which I wouldnt have minded, it was every time I should have been standing up. Regardless of why she was staring, it made me feel uncomfortable and made my already bad day worse.
Members of staff
Checking into a hotel recently I was asked ‘why have you parked in a disabled space?’. The motive was because other people use disabled spaces inappropriately and the staff were trying to stop it from happening, but the question could have been ‘have you displayed your blue badge?’ instead. Even when we replied and said we had a blue badge, this answer wasn’t a good enough response and we were asked again. If a placard given to me by my local government wasn’t enough proof of my disability, what else would have been?
I think the point I’m making is that regardless of whether people’s actions and judgements are well intentioned in making sure I ‘qualify’ for things, it still has a damaging affect on me. People might think that they’re standing up for people with disabilities but what they’re actually doing is making me feel like I need to justify myself all the time and worry about upsetting people. It separates people like me further from existing groups of people and makes us feel more isolated and separated. Like we don’t fit ‘enough’ into people’s stereotype of disability and forces us to ask for and justify ourselves in the help we need more. Which isn’t a nice feeling and makes tasks more daunting, which are already made more difficult because of our disability.
People should judge less and question their own motives more. Particularly those who should know better or who know me.
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