Via Womanist Musings, I’ve come across a great blog called The Deal With Disability. The blog is written by Eva, a woman with cerebral palsy, and chronicles her experiences with how people treat her — from ignoring her, to being over-bearing and patronizing, or treating her like a child. Sometimes she writes about the experience; other times she actually records the interaction with a camera mounted discreetly on her wheelchair, and posts it along with commentary. The interactions are at turns funny, revealing, and appalling, or all at the same time.
One particularly popular video, of Eva and her aide out at a restaurant with a pushy and hovering waitress, is below:
Though a somewhat extreme example, this particular video shows a lot of common reactions to people with disabilities all at once, from ignoring social cues that would otherwise generally be acknowledged, invading personal space in a rather extreme way, treating disability as something to “feel better” from, and more.
While obviously chronicling Eva’s experiences, and therefore not covering the experiences and treatment of people with other wide-ranging disabilities, the blog exposes a great number of common and entrenched able-bodied prejudices. What it shows is that many able-bodied people respond to people with disabilities in a way that is intended to be helpful, polite, and/or friendly without considering how they would feel if someone was treating them the exact same way — one of the surest signs of privilege and prejudice. I know that I’ve seen myself in several of the interactions, and imagine that many other able-bodied people and people with disabilities different from Eva’s will see themselves, too. In line with Eva’s stated goals with the bog, it has helped me to recognize some of my own ableist assumptions, and the harmful behavior they can spawn. (And some comments on the blog also inadvertently expose defensive and self-righteous able-bodied privilege.)
Eva explains why so many common reactions to her as a person are misguided and offensive, and takes the time to also point out how things can and should go differently if only others would treat her with the same basic respect they afford to most able-bodied people. For anyone interested in social justice and breaking down privilege (whether their own, other people’s, or both), I’d call it a must-read.