Wednesday, May 29, 2013

A Thought On The Roots Of "Ableism"

A big part of what drives "ableism" is people's natural reluctance to be drawn into the lives of people who seem to be "needy". Most people are happy to "do a good turn" now and then, (to borrow from Scouting), but when the need appears open-ended, they feel a strong desire to back away.

This plays out for people with disabilities in two ways. When our disabilities are well-understood, and our needs very specific and easy to meet, people are generally nice, helpful, accommodating. When our disabilities are complex, and the full extend of our needs unknown, people shy away, avert their gaze, and look for a way to escape from the perceived gravitational pull of our bottomless need.

If this is true, it suggests two things. First, we should be more open about telling people what our disabilities are, with simple, brief definitions and descriptions. Second, whenever possible, our requests for help should be specific, clearly defining what we expect the person to do and telling them how much it will cost or how much of their time it will take.