Dear able-bodied people,
I’m exhausted. It’s a fatigue I’ve never felt before—not from the extra energy I use because of my CP or the mental and physically toll of inaccessibility. I’m exhausted because for the past year you’ve stuck your middle finger up to Disabled people. Not in the playful way. It’s as if you set a fire and watched it wreak havoc on a house.
I’m not talking to all able-bodied people, of course. Or maybe I am. Sometimes I don’t know who to trust. I want to address those who won’t wear masks, those who partied inside all year long, those who pervert the ADA (a civil rights law that Disabled people fought for) in order to weasel out of wearing masks. I didn’t see you care about the ADA or disability rights before it suited you.
I’m side-eyeing the ones who lament the days when things were “normal.” “Normal” was never good enough: it was inaccessible, ableist, and inequitable. Going forward we must do better.
The past few months, I’ve seen so many laugh-reacts regarding mask mandates and people asking you to do the bare minimum to protect others. It reminds me of the viral meme that says something like “I don’t know how to convince you why you should care about other people.”
All I can think to tell you is to remember that Disabled people are people too. We want to live fulfilling lives. We don’t all have the privilege of staying home. Before Covid-19, I was a college student with an internship and a relationship. I had a social life. I’m not the kill-joy you may perceive me as. I too went to parties and met people. I would love to get back to that too, but I just don’t know how realistic or responsible that would be for the time being.
I implore you to think of others. Read books by Disabled people (like Care Work by Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha, Such a Pretty Girl by Nadina Laspina, Being Heumann by Judy Heumann, Haben by Haben Girma, and my personal favorite, the Pretty One by Keah Brown), read blogs by Disabled people, subscribe to Disabled YouTubers (I am one), and follow Disabled people on social media. Hearing perspectives from those that differ from your own is the first step in being human.