Ah, the skeptics. They’re all around – on the bus, on the street, they even take the form of Uber drivers. Throwing common courtesy to the window, the skeptics view my cane, and likely other mobility devices, as an invitation. “Ask a question!” it begs them. So, they do. And of course they wouldn’t be skeptics if they didn’t doubt the validity of my disability.
I’ve dealt with this for years, and I’ve been told by my disabled friends that I’m not alone. So I decided to make this handy list of the top 5 reasons I’m not faking.
5. Questions, Questions, Questions
Reason #5 is something I mentioned above. People often see my mobility device and think it gives them a license to ask questions about just about anything and get my life story. Don’t get me wrong, I love when people are interested in getting to know me and becoming more knowledgeable about disability. But when I’m going about my business and doing my thing, I probably don’t have time to answer a ton of questions. Believe it or not, I have a job! I’m getting an education! I’m a busy woman, and a spoonie. Maybe start with “How are you doing today?”. You wouldn’t ask a random person about their life story if you don’t know them, so don’t do it to someone with a disability. It’s just weird.
Questions NOT to ask when you first meet me:
- How long have you been disabled?
- How do you (insert everyday task)?
- How do you work?
- Do you live on your own?
- Do you have a boyfriend?
(I have been asked all of the above)
4. Staring and Being Put on Trial
Even if I can’t see people staring at me, I can usually feel it. I don’t like it. It’s not fun. It’s not acceptable. I also experience being put on trial by people who see me using a cane, and notice me looking at my phone. For some reason, people see this as a great injustice and get greatly offended that I ask to be accommodated when I’m “not really blind”. Breaking News : Most disabilities run along a spectrum. Most people aren’t just seeing black nothingness. There’s a huge range of levels of vision, from people who experience night blindness to folks who have a small visual field, and a number of combinations of vision characteristics. This is true for a lot of disabilities, I’d venture to say most. Before you accuse someone of being a faker, do some research.
3. My Competence and Capabilities Are Constantly Questioned
Thankfully, I work at a place where disability is valued and respected. But that’s not the case for every encounter in my life. Blind people are often portrayed as bumbling and incompetent in the media, and those depictions have real-life consequences. Well-meaning strangers often invade my personal space or insist on helping me even when I say I’m alright. There’s nothing wrong with helping, everyone needs help sometimes. But when someone says they don’t need it, it’s time to back off.
2. Sexual Harassment
“Hey, blind girl and short girl. Wanna have sex?”
These words were hurled at my friend and I as we were walking down the street to go to lunch. Most women know how this kind of harassment feels. Even though they’re “just words” they still have an impact. You feel assaulted by the knowledge that someone is objectifying and fetishizing you. Disabled women especially experience this kind of fetishizing and harassment. Using my mobility device isn’t the cause of the harassment I face. However, it’s something noticeable that harassers often choose to latch onto.
“Pity” and “victim” are unfortunate words words that are often associated with disability. These stereotypes aren’t true. We are a community full of incredibly strong warriors. However, it’s also true that people with disabilities can have disadvantages in situations of physical violence and abuse. According to the National Crime Victimization Survey, people with disabilities are 2x as likely to face violent crime as their non-disabled peers. Those with neurologically-atypical suffered violent crime at twice the rate of other disabilities. This is a reality we face every day.
We would not fake our disability for similar reasons that LGBTQ folx don’t fake their identity – the discrimination and harassment we face is not worth a lie.
Sources I used for this post:
National Crime Victimization Survey: