Hi, my name is Erica Mones, and you are listening to the No Standing Ovations Please podcast.
This is my second episode, even though you do not have to listen in order because it’s not a serial podcast. It’s just a podcast about disability and mental health, so I’m just going to talk about different issues on each episode.
And on today’s episode, I’m going to talk a little bit about why saying you don’t see disability is not as progressive as you may think it is.
Now I just wanna put a disclaimer out there that this is just my opinion as one Disabled person, and I cannot and do not speak for all Disabled people. I can only speak on behalf of myself, so take what I say for what it is. It’s just one person’s opinion.
And with that, let’s dive into this. When people say they don’t see disability, they often don’t mean it in a harmful way, but as with many things in life, just because somebody doesn’t mean harm, doesn’t mean they’re not causing harm.
How I look at it is that my disability is an integral part of my identity, and when you don’t see my disability, you are denying a part of my identity.
I also look at disability from the social model instead of the medical model. And that simply means that I view disability as a social issue that is brought on by social barriers and man-made barriers such as inaccessibility and stigma around disability rather than an individual problem with my body and mind.
So what does this mean?
This means that my disability is not a matter of overcoming. I simply will never overcome my disability.
When there’s a flight of stairs in front of me with no ramp or elevator, I cannot just will myself in my power wheelchair to get up the stairs.
Or if I’m on the phone and I’m stuttering, and somebody hangs up the phone, I cannot just magically make them stay on the phone.
I really wish I could, but unfortunately, I do not have those kinds of powers (chuckles).
So what I’m just trying to say is that when you—well not you personally, I’m not attacking anybody—but when someone says they don’t see disability, they’re saying they don’t see the barriers I face. They’re saying they don’t see that I am part of a marginalized group that gets less opportunities than groups in power.
And they’re also saying that they don’t acknowledge a part of my identity.
Now I’m going to dig a little bit into how my disability is a part of my identity.
I was born with a neuromuscular disorder called cerebral palsy, and that just means that I was born with brain damage that affects the way my muscles move. And because of that, I’ve always looked different than able-bodied people.
My left hand curves. And I walk with a limp.
And before I even introduce myself to people, they see my disability. And nothing I do is really going to take that away, but that’s fine because it’s just become a part of who I am.
I used go to camp probably from the age of eight-years-old to nineteen-years-old. I went to summer camp for Disabled children. And there I was able to make lots of friends and form my identity as a Disabled person. But I was also able to just be a normal kid for three weeks out of the year.
Because when everybody is Disabled, then Disabled becomes the norm, and then I wasn’t so different. I was just like everybody else, so I could focus on having fun instead of worrying about what other people thought.
Also, another way that my disability has become a part of my identity is that I cannot shower or dress myself, so I’m used to other people helping me out. And I value interdependence rather than the idea of independence, which basically means that all human beings rely on one another. And we don’t just support ourselves, but we need to focus on our relationship to others and on strengthening that. And realizing that when we work for our collective benefit that helps us more in the long run than when we’re just focusing on what helps us individually.
And I think that’s a very important lesson for all human beings. Because especially in such a global economy, most people don’t grow their own food or make their own clothing. So we all rely on one another. And when we deny that, it’s when we dehumanize other people, and then we end up shortchanging them for their labor and their being. And in the end, that just harms everybody.
And so that’s about it for what I wanted to talk about today.
If you would like to write to me, all of my social media is @ericamones. And you can write to me if this has sparked something in you or if you would like to request a podcast episode or if you just wanna talk to somebody. I’m always looking to meet new people. So thank you for listening and have a great day!