Disorganized or disabled?
Too often non-disabled people confuse equity for equality
“You’re always late.”
“You should really be more organized, you know.”
Often have I heard those words. Sometimes they are intent on coaxing me to be
‘better’, other times they are simply a reprimand. But they are always paternalistic. The judging eyes and comments come from a place of complete misunderstanding. Whilst people might be aware that I’m disabled, they have no idea of what that entails. Too often non-disabled people confuse equity for equality. Equality is the assumption that everyone should be treated the same, irrespective of difference. This is where the “Why are you always late since I managed to be on time?” comments come from. Equity would mean an acknowledgement that people require treatment in accordance with their circumstances. I never need anyone to ‘see past’ me being disabled, that entirely defeats the purpose of the social model of disability. Being disabled is not about the impairments the individual has, that is just another part of life. Being disabled is about the tangible and intangible barriers created by a non-inclusive society. Without being disabled you would have no idea how much we have to organize ourselves to complete
“Being disabled is about the tangible and intangible barriers created by a non-inclusive society.”
the most mundane, everyday tasks. Without structure, we are unable to do anything
in this inaccessible society. So, the assumption that disabled people’s ‘choices’ make them late as opposed to the intensely inaccessible society is clearly absurd and insulting. For context, as a ‘Londoner’ who does not drive, I have to rely on public transport, mainly the Tube, of which only 25% is fully accessible. As you can imagine, I don’t only need to travel to 25% of London. This means I inevitably end up having to negotiate copious flights of stairs. Sometimes, even where there is a lift, it is conveniently out of order. The physical toll that can take is unimaginable, especially when you consider that I exert the energy a non-disabled person would use over 3 to 5 days in just one day. This gets compounded by the anti-black shoving, pushing and harassment from other pedestrians. Because when you are Black in public the unspoken expectation is that for some reason, you must default to moving aside for others to pass and never the other way around. Stand your ground and a tirade of abuse is headed your way. As a disabled Black person, I physically cannot adhere to the consensus of ‘moving out of the way’ which creates a whole new set of problems for me. On any good day, I can be punched in the arm for moving too slowly, knocked down and stepped over by everyone else passing by. So, I tend to resort to the alternative, an expensive Uber. As a disabled person, I do not operate in a society that is inclusive. Disabled people are looked at as an inconvenience and a liability since profit is valued over people and time is commoditized. There is little effort made by The Establishment to reform society to include disabled people, and those who don’t have to confront this reality carry on as usual. Where does that leave me? Late.