On Ableism

I understand that everyone is tired of political posts and negativity, but as a disabled person, I can no longer stay silent.  For as long as I can remember, I was different.  I began wearing clunky orthotics before I could even walk, whenever I tried to speak, I stuttered, I was afraid of solid food because I had difficulty swallowing, and I needed assistance for daily activities such as bathing.  Apart from the leg orthotics, these are all aspects of my life that have followed me through my teenage years and will probably follow me into adulthood.  This is my normal; and that is okay.  What is not okay is a “leader” publicly berating a disabled person.  It is not okay to mock speech impediments or mobility issues, and it is not okay to violate ADA accessibility laws.  It is not okay to ask if people are “retarded” because of a disability.  It is not okay that the “leader” of this country, Donald J. Trump, is an ableist (not to mention racist, misogynist, homophobe, islamophobe, transphobe).

I am devastated with the lack of empathy in this country.  I am devastated that when Trump was criticized for mocking disabled people he denied it, and when asked about how he supports the disabled, he retorts, “I spend millions of dollars on ramps” as if he is going above and beyond the law to help disabled people.  He is not; his rhetoric implies apathy, and communicates that I am a burden to him.  If Donald Trump was elected a year ago, I probably would have agreed with his ableistic ideas (at least internally), but I am stronger now.

I realize now that my internalized ableism is a byproduct of our society’s long history of murdering, institutionalizing, excluding, and mocking the disabled.  My internalized ableism is a result of society’s “at least there’s a ramp at the back” attitude.   Americans think I am burdensome.  Yes, I rely on Medicaid because our society does not allow me to work “typical” college student jobs and our economy makes it impossible to afford a personal care attendant, but no, I am no longer sorry.  Never again will I apologize for my existence.  My existence does cost the taxpayer a little extra money than that of the average American, but as soon as I earn my degree and am able to find a steady career, I will be paying into the system like everyone else.  Even if this was not the case, it is appalling to communicate to a group of human beings that they are worthless and burdensome because of something they have no control over.  Ableism is alive and well, but so am I and many other disability rights activists, and I will not surrender.

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