Saturday, February 6, 2016

I Believe You

The first time that someone believed me about why I am unable to drive a car was actually fairly recently.   It was a few years ago when I was commenting on a thread on Mama Be Good's Facebook Page.   To be quite honest, I do not remember what the thread was about now, but I had commented about how I felt unsafe driving for lots of reasons:
terrible visual processing
poor executive functioning
poor depth perception
inability to multitask
VERY poor sense of direction (I get lost often and disoriented easily)
tendency to hyperfocus (which can be great at times, but not when you need to pay attention to multiple things on the road when you are driving)

I was just venting, actually but when I got a response from the page just telling me that I was doing a good thing, trusting my limits and making safe choices and should be commended for that, I can't even begin to describe how that felt.

I am forty years old and for the first time in my life someone believed me. They didn't ask me to explain all the reasons (though I did because I was anxious about not being believed).  They didn't tell me to try harder to be less anxious (ignoring all the other reasons that driving is unsafe for me). Someone believed me  and it felt like such a huge relief.   I am pretty sure that I cried all day.

Maybe I wasn't selfish (as others had called me).  Maybe I was not "making excuses", but actually listening to myself and recognizing what was best for me (and anyone else on the road).  I wasn't just asking for people to "coddle" me.   I wasn't pretending, or weak, or too afraid.  For once, I felt like I wasn't a bad person just because I couldn't drive a car.

That is the power of someone believing you.   For most of my life, I have not been believed.   I think that a lot of Autistic people and those with "invisible" disabilities can relate to this because we are so often told that if we just try harder we can do the thing.  Except sometimes, we can't.  And not being able to do a thing should not be shameful or seen as a weakness.

There are a lot of things that I can do exceptionally well or in my own way. There are a lot of things I will never do.   And that's okay.   If I say that I can't do a thing, please don't make me "prove" it to you.  Please don't ask me a million questions that feel like I'm being interrogated.  Just believe me. Trust in me.  Assume that I know my own limits and I'm not just trying to make everyone around me miserable or put out because of my disabilities or my inability to sometimes do the things that many take for granted.

I'm not a bad person because I can't do the thing.   You are not a bad person if you can't do the thing.  You are not only defined by the things that are hard for you.   If you need help to do it, I believe you.  If you need to do it in a different way, I believe you.  If you can never do it, I believe you.   I trust you that you know yourself best.    You deserve to be believed.

Image: dark purple square.  White text in various fonts reads: You deserve to be believed. White swirly/squiggly lines on top and bottom of text. 

Monday, February 1, 2016

"Charity" That Harms.

Before you support an organization that claims to help disabled people, there are a few questions you should ask yourself:

Does this organization rely on disrespectful attitudes toward disabled people or the tragedy/charity model of disability?   Are they working to address ableism or are they contributing to it?

Does this organization actively include disabled people in the majority of decision making and leadership roles?  Or are disabled people tokenized? Remember: "Nothing About Us, Without Us!"

Are their events/conferences & "awareness" efforts inclusive of and accessible to disabled people? Are they inclusive to people of different socioeconomic, racial or cultural groups?

Does this organization confuse parent support with disability advocacy and disability rights/justice work?  Those are two entirely separate things and while parent support is important, if it is toxic (based on the tragedy/charity model of disability) it is actually harmful to not just the disabled person, but also to their relationship with their families, schools, and communities.

If the goals of this organization are empowerment of disabled people, what are they doing to make sure that happens?

Does this organization rely on "inspiration porn" to make you "feel good" about being a decent human to a disabled person?   Does it use stories about disabled people as props while centering the feelings of the non disabled people around them?

Does the organization spend the majority of their funding on helping disabled people have a better quality of life, more accessible communities, encouraging acceptance and working for disability rights/justice or are they more concerned with eugenics and preventing more disabled people from being born?

Not all "charity" is created equal and before you support an organization (or share certain content on social media, etc), it's important to ask these questions to make sure you are actually supporting disabled people and not just encouraging others to focus on how our disabilities make other people feel.

Image: orange floral patterned background.  Yellow text reads; "Before you support a disability organization, ask yourself: "is this organization working to address ableism or contributing to it?