I wonder what we who have some disability, whether intellectual, psychological or physical, or something else face as our biggest problem. I know there are degrees of disability. Some of us have been disabled since birth, others because of an accident or illness, and others because of a limiting progressive illness.
But do we have one huge thing in common. Perhaps it is the biggest problem we all face on a daily basis. And it isn’t disability or problems with housing or a personal assistant or navigating through a store.
We can call it lots of things. How about exclusion? Much of the time we are excluded from group activity because of our particular disability precludes inclusion. Our friends might decide to meet at a restaurant or club that doesn’t now afford us access. We tell them, “Just go anyway and have a good time.” And we stay home again.
Or we can call it lack of public knowledge. No one really thinks of the disabled as part of the community. For years we locked the ‘different’ in the attic or put them in institutions. We may not do that anymore, but we have sheltered workshops that prey on the disabled. Don’t we all give donations to Goodwill; they employ disabled folks and pay them well below minimum wage. But the top executives make millions per year. I hesitate to call it earn, because it’s money they get on the backs of the disabled.
Isolation is another word for our daily lives. We usually can’t head on over to a community center, senior center or campus union because we can’t get in or maybe we can, but fear that we will not be recognized as a human being, laughed at, excluded and left alone sitting in the rear. In our place, you know.
But let’s call it what it really is. Loneliness. It’s what we go through most of the time. We are not afforded access to public places, are employed well below standard wages, unable to participate in public groups, usually excluded from political or social groups. At least we can attend (usually) the movies. If we can afford it, get in the theatre and find a place to sit. But the movies are an individual thing to do. I don’t care if a group of 20 people go to the movie. You watch it alone, no talking, no socializing. You watch the movie and then you go home. How about a summer evening picnic? Yeah, sure. If people think to invite you, how are you going to get to the picnic area or heaven forbid, the beach?
Think about that. We are lonely. We usually have a TV and most of us have computers. That’s how we keep in touch with the outside world. Because that’s about all we have.
See Finding our tribe. Keep on searching, people, it's out there somewhere.