Getting past a wheelchair that’s blocking the path; putting up with the screams of an intellectually disabled child in a restaurant; changing what’s in your child’s lunchbox to avoid the presence of deadly allergens that some other child reacts to at their preschool; not being able to use the closest car parks because they’re set aside for the disabled; teachers spending more time having to deal with the challenged child while the “normals” wait.
Disabled people are often treated as an inconvenience for the rest of the public. They get in the way, they slow things down, their participation in society – in education, in eating and entertainment establishments, etc – is a nuisance for those who are just trying to enjoy themselves and get on with their day. I have often heard it said that these disabled people shouldn’t be in shopping malls and restaurants if they can’t do what everyone else does, that they should be put in different educational establishments – or taught at home – rather than inconvenience normal children and families. Their existence and desire to take part in the world, is treated like a privilege they don’t deserve, by people who did nothing to “deserve” it themselves.
Essentially, inconvenience of the “able-bodied” and “able-minded,” is rated as a higher consideration than the well-being and freedom of the disabled. The fact that 90% of the day they don’t have to accommodate people with disabilities, is considered irrelevant. The fact that 90% of a disabled person’s day is spent putting up with a world that is structured and preferential to others, is not considered part of the equation. The presence of small inconveniences – an altered lunch, a higher noise level, a longer distance to walk – are considered big enough issues to exclude disabled people from taking part in the same world.
The message is plain: Life would be so much easier for those without disabilities, if they just didn’t have to put up with the disabled. Tuck those with different and special needs away where they won’t bother others: They can eat in a restaurant, just not this one; they can attend a preschool, but not the same one as my child’s; they can get on a bus, but it will have to be the next one. And when that other restaurant, that other school and that next bus don’t exist or say “no” too? Well what does the able-person care, they’ve got on with their day in the meantime and that’s what matters.
Such an inconvenient existence. Just like people with different coloured skin, and different sexual preferences, and different beliefs; so “inconvenient.” Just getting in the way of normal people and their normal lives. Until the parameters of “normal” shift again, or accident or age suddenly place you in the wrong category, and suddenly you’re the inconvenience that no one wants to see or work around, and your very existence is treated like a nuisance to those who don’t want their perfect lives interrupted. Perfection is fleeting, illusionary, subjective. Disability tends to be life-long, real, and objective. Just change your perspective, instead of expecting someone else to change their very existence.
Why is that such a hard thing for so many people to understand?