On Monday I wrote about holiday conversations about disability with family. I hope I didn’t leave the impression that I have lots of complaints about how my family deals with my disability, because I’ve been very fortunate on that score.
My family have never been either sentimental or critical about whatever’s going on with my disability. "Fortunate" really is the word, because I’ve come to understand that there is a very wide range of familial attitudes towards someone’s disability. Some families are downright sick and hostile in their approaches, and even good intentions don’t guarantee good results. I suppose that’s natural. Rightly or wrongly, disability is still generally viewed as a misfortune at some stage … whether at birth or after illness or accident. Some types of disability also for some reason invite the creation of all kinds of crackpot theories and beliefs … from the causes and proper “treatment” of autism, to distant hopes for repaired spinal cords, to doubts about the substantive reality of invisible conditions like chronic pain and depression. Sometimes it seems like we are forever swimming up a swiftly flowing stream as we try to asset positive, realistic understandings of our disabilities.
Then, just as we begin to lose hope, we again encounter friends and family who just naturally “get it”, without needing awareness campaigns or disability studies classes or long, awkward, exasperating conversations. Good for them … God bless them if that works for you. They also prove that disability acceptance is not, after all, that difficult, unnatural, or counter-intuitive. Some people get there on their own. My family does, which makes me very glad, but also impatient all over again about the other families that don’t, and seemingly won’t, understand.