on being disabled
i am an asshole.
when i think about it, i have never really been fully aware of the experience of disabled persons. now that it is relevant to me, i find i’m taking more interest in the disabled community.
i think back to times when i had an opportunity to get some kind of training that specifically deals with disabled persons. i was nice enough, i could accommodate people without a problem, why do i need special training? on the first day of a class, i mention that students with disabilities should see me but i realize i kind of breeze over it like it is some kind of side note. i haven’t ever been to the disability resource center. hell, i haven’t even been to their website. i feel like a sham.
increasingly, i see how disabilities are neglected. and when they aren’t neglected, they are exploited. today we are talking in class about communication and cognition. literally in the first 5 minutes i observed that we were watching an excerpt from See No Evil, Hear No Evil. It is a comedy about a dynamic and disabled duo who are going to foil the plans of a group of thieves. i also noticed that the student who was presenting wore a shirt that read, “you’re just jealous because the voices to talk to me”. all of the sudden, disabilities are everywhere. but not in the way they should be.
i am also ashamed to say that my most regrettable decision is one that involves disabilities. since the moment i did it, i regretted it and i shocked even myself by having done it. it clearly indicated that some priorities needed adjusting.
not that my actions are his fault, but i was dating a major asshole at the time. we shared a dark sense of humor and one day we were riding our bikes through campus. i saw that some students were being led around with blindfolds on. the goal, i think, is to understand the experience of the blind and to feel what it is like to rely on someone else for your safety and sensory experience.
i coasted by one pair walking around. a young girl was blindfolded and holding the hand of another student. i saw my course of action in a flash and had only a moment to execute it. instead of thinking, ‘hey, this is a really dick thing to do’ i was thinking how funny my boyfriend at the time would find it.
i acted immediately on impulse and it was only after i had done it that i finally said to myself ‘hey, you’re a real asshole’. when my bicycle was just a few feet away, i stood up on my pedals and shouted, “RAAAAAAAAAAWWWWWR!”. my plan worked, and the poor girl nearly jumped out of her skin. i was laughing on the outside, but on the inside i was asking myself, ‘who are you??’
i suppose thankfully that experience led me to seriously question the person i was becoming in that relationship and eventually to get out of it entirely. but i have still not forgotten what a piece of shit i was that day.
even when i have been faced with disabilities nearly every day for almost a year (with XBF), i realize i have not fully grasped the meaning of accommodation nor of the feelings disabled people might have about their condition or about the way people respond to them. XBF, for instance, is disabled due to traumatic brain injury. accommodations have been made. patience is not only a virtue, but a prerequisite. i have had to trust him when he forgets (every)things. conversations become a challenge when he loses his train of thought mid-sentence. he responds to stress poorly and get physically sick more easily from stress.
now i am sitting here, trying to assimilate my disability with my sense of self. it is a source of stress as well as of relief. i feel stress when i think of acceptance from others. i also hear my mother telling me i am a victim and have a victim mentality, as she did when i dared broach the subject of her parenting finesse (or lack thereof). i feel relief because i can put a name to the struggles i have always felt but don’t dare to name. i have come far in my education and i always felt that it was more difficult for me than for others, but no one wants to hear that. it means i can stop holding myself to a perfect standard and become more comfortable in my own skin.
i wonder what accommodations are made for the teachers. i know they are made for students, but what about instructors who are disabled? are instructors even allowed to be disabled or to receive accommodations? now that i think about it, i haven’t ever heard of accommodations for academics. do they get time and a half for grading? will i need to tell all future jobs that i have a disability? will i be able to get a job? will i be able to keep it?