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Getting Disability Wrong

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Dave Hingsburger | 14:54 UK time, Thursday, 19 June 2008

I've had a few complaints over the last week or so about my 'attitude' towards my disability. Apparently I'm 'too cheery' and 'not angry enough'. My blog posts and my writing is too 'sunny' and 'upbeat' ... they didn't say 'inspirational' because I think they knew I'd kill them. I take criticism well, which is to say I get angry and fume for several hours then calm down and think about what was said. It is true I am an optimist by nature. I think it's that optimism that has allowed me to survive the childhood I had, has allowed me to take on challenges once though impossible and to keep going ... And yes, it has served me well in my transition to life in a wheelchair.

My annoyance came from the idea that there is a 'way' to be disabled. There was a mood, a posture, a viewpoint that I'm supposed to espouse.

And I was worried that I was failing at being crippled - how bad is that? I mean the bar isn't high.

So I reviewed. I came to a sunny view of the world long ago. I saw and experienced abuse. I saw and experienced prejudice. I saw and experienced disenfranchisement. But it never occurred to me to let what others did define who I was and determine how I would react to the world. Those who had power over me as a child, those who misused that power didn't need me handing them more - giving the ability to destroy my adulthood. I refused then, refuse now.

I choose to live a happy life.

Yeah it sucks that I can't get onto transit, can't get into a variety of places, can't be accepted as an equal. It really sucks. I work against those barriers and prejudices. I fight my own fight in my own way. I see the oppressor and I act when I believe action is necessary. But I don't let inaccessibility in the outside world make happiness and joy inaccessible in my mind and heart. I don't want to be 'the friend that is so much work to be around because he's angry, bitter and depressed all the time' ... I have those friends. Not that I want to be happy for them ... I want to be happy for me. This is my one kick at the can.

So I can't kick the can, I can sure as hell knock it over.

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    I think it all depends on your approach. Some bury their heads in the sand and give off the impression that because they haven't experienced discrimination, then everyone else is imagining it. Then there are those who put too much emphasis on how their impairment affects them, making the impairment the primary location of what they perceive as their "Disability". You appear to have adopted the right apporach.

  • Comment number 2.

    Not sure I agree at all with the above comment that there is a 'right' way to do disability. There isn't. I like your approach, but it wouldn't suit everyone. I'm a stroppy crip (with more focus on my impairment than some social model evangelists would like), and proud of it. It has its disadvantages. I'm sure your approach has pros and cons too. In your own way, you engender equality just as well as other disabled writers - better than lots of them!

  • Comment number 3.

    There is no right or wrong way to be who you are. I am, for the most part, a happy guy. But I can also be angry, annoyed, frustrated and difficult. It is within my power to decide how I will react to the world and how I choose to view myself. Why others seem intent on taking this power way confuses me. Why would anyone want to muddle with my 'me-ness'?

  • Comment number 4.

    Hello from Northwest Arkansas US! I think people just need to stop passing on their baggage on others. I'm speaking of people who must take their misfortunes badly so they expect we should be in constant sadness as well. Disabled people are just like anybody: some are bitter, some are managing, and some are too busy to notice their disadvantages most of the time - and some are all of the above at different times, that would be me. No matter how bad a day I'm having, I'd still LAUGH OUT LOUD literally if I hear or see something that's too hilarious to pass off :) I say live and let live !

  • Comment number 5.

    Hi, all,
    Glad to hear that people out there are honest enough to admit they get angry sometimes because hey so do all the "well, fit, healthy etc etc" I say live my life and let me sit and watch you stay calm serene and awake with a song and a smile every morning!! It aint gonna happen. Though of course like all I am happy, enjoy a laugh at good situations in my life or use irony in dark moments.
    Signing off as I am boring too, about to watch the news!
    Love to you all

  • Comment number 6.

    Well now. How can I put this? I have the unfortunate disposition of being not disabled enough to satisfy the requirements of the observer. that is to say, my disability is not only physical but also mental. Oh NO! I said it. I must be a nutter! Lock up the kids Mary and get my shotgun. This bloke is mental!

    And he can walk too! he must be a danger to society. A social security scrounger too. Can't he have the decency to sit in a wheelchair so I can abuse him properly?

    Of course this is never actually said. But you can see it in the eyes. For some reason, my suggestions of exchanging jobs goes down like a concrete duck. My idea is that I have the clipboard and I take a baseball bat to their knees, hips and head. Then I take an axe to the end of their right foot to remove the big toe and ball of the foot. Having whacked them senseless I will then call them a nutter and social security scrounger, just like they think I am.

  • Comment number 7.

    Good, so it's not just me then! :D Getting 'miffy' won't make changes come any faster, will they? If you are anything like me then you will carefully pick your time and place to get cross, but once you do then everyone better stand back! :)

  • Comment number 8.

    I thought disabled people were supposed to be happy and cheery constantly. I’m sure as hell not. I also thought they were s’posed to pretend like nothing is wrong all the time and everything is hunky dory? Huh. Guess not.

    Yes, if they had have used “inspirational”, I’d have killed them too- we’re just normal.

    I can kick the can. And knock it over, too; I do it regularly, also kicking people at the same time!

    Anna

 

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