Things That Make My Life Easier, A Reintroduction (Part 1 of 3)

A long time ago, I decided to start up a series. I lacked a catchy title, so I went with the mere truth: Things That Make My Life Easier.

What I meant by that is, of course, things that make my life with a disability easier.

Disability can introduce certain complications to a life — meaning that in reaching the same destination, a disabled person may have a bumpier, windier, more obstructed path than a nondisabled person. A disabled person may simply have more to deal with than hir nondisabled counterpart. And this is not inherent to hir condition: much of that difficulty, that obstruction, is constructed by a society that is built to suit a nondisabled person’s needs, concerns, and preferences. Some of it, to be sure, is difficulty that will never be eliminated, no matter the social context.

This means two things, things that are not at all contradictory but, in fact, must both be recognized for us to make any progress:

One, that disabled people face a great deal of difficulty that is ultimately the result of a society that cares more about the convenience of the comfortable than the comfort of the inconvenient;

And two, that disabled people may always face some amount more difficulty than their nondisabled peers due to the intrinsic nature of neurological and physiological variation.

Disability is an experience all its own. But at the same time, disability is not particularly [anything]. Disabled people are experiencing the same thing nondisabled people are, by the by: they are experiencing pleasure and experiencing pain; they are experiencing acceptance and experiencing rejection; they are experiencing stability and experiencing change. They are learning and expanding; they are teaching and demonstrating. They need food and drink, and the opportunity to get rid of bodily waste. They need shelter from the elements, a comfortable place to sit or lie. They need transport if they are mobile; they need a way to enter buildings; they need an effective method of communication with other people. They need social interaction; they need solitary time. They need intellectual stimulation; they need leisure and entertainment.

These are all things that nondisabled people need, too. They are not “special” needs. They are human needs. A core set of needs that we all share.

But these needs are not all met in the same ways.

This is the beauty of humanity, really: presented with a particular need, a set of people will take all manner of approaches, using all sorts of different resources available, finding all kinds of different ways to use them — different paths to the same end point. All paths take a toll on their travelers, while offering to those travelers certain advantages. It is up to the individual to weigh the costs and benefits of any specific way sie might take.

There is no moral weight to one path over another. That it harm none, do what you will. Whatever you are doing, so long as you harm no one else, it is good. Or, put another way: Whatever you are doing, however you are doing it, if it gets done, who the hell cares beyond that?

Next: A Reintroduction (Part 2 of 3)

Cross-posted: three rivers fog, FWD/Forward, Feministe.


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11 comments for “Things That Make My Life Easier, A Reintroduction (Part 1 of 3)

  1. August 19, 2010 at 7:24 am

    I can relate. I often have discussions about the difficulties faced by disabled people (esp. autistics), and whether these are inherent in the condition itself. There will always be inconveniences and difficiulties that will not be solved by accommodations, but the social model of disability never promised you a rose garden, I’d like to say.

  2. Kaz
    August 19, 2010 at 10:42 am

    I look forward to this series! This is something I get very passionate about, because I spent ages thinking I had to do things the way that everyone else did them and if that didn’t work I was just not trying hard enough, and simply letting myself go “okay, I know this is how everyone else does it but it’s not working for me. How can I get around this? What can I use to help myself achieve this?” has had such incredible effects on my life.

  3. Paraxeni
    August 19, 2010 at 12:54 pm

    I’m looking forward to the rest of this!

    Kaz – me too! So what if wearing a rucksack in the house is ‘weird’, or sliding downstairs on my bum is ‘bizarre’, it gets things done! Also grabbers are one of the niftiest inventions ever, and there’s no reason I can possibly think of why I shouldn’t sit on the floor to vacuum, rather than standing up.

    I used to love to cook, but making one meal from scratch = three days in bed to recover. I did it though, driving myself past exhaustion in the process, because (to quote several people) “Ready-prepared and convenience foods are poor quality, and for lazy people”. I wanted ‘nice’ food and not to be seen as ‘lazy’. I wanted my partner to come home to a good meal after a day at work fasting due to her GI problems.

    Luckily benefits here in the UK are paid in cash, rather than in vouchers, and there’s a disability benefit I receive purely because making a meal unaided is unsafe for me. I dipped a toe into our local supermarket’s prepared food range and not only is much of it indistinguishable from ‘real’ food, but it often works out cheaper, even with the cost of delivery added. There’s no waste, we can both eat different things without twice the prep time, and I can actually eat the food instead of lying on the kitchen floor in tears because I’m exhausted and in pain! My mealtime conversations with my partner are no longer “Pills, QUICK!” or “Sorry sweetheart, do you mind eating alone?”

    Thanks to social assistance, technology and a smidge of creativity I get to enjoy some semblance of whatever ‘normality’ is.

  4. August 19, 2010 at 2:16 pm

    There are times I can almost forget what it’s like to be disabled, and then there are times it is glaringly obvious. It’s a bit like the old example of scaling a mountain and not seeing how far you’ve traveled upwards until you look back behind you.

    But it’s tough to observe other people who don’t understand forming judgments that aren’t necessarily indicative of how one sees oneself.

  5. Paraxeni
    August 20, 2010 at 7:59 pm

    The distinct lack of comments on any disability-related article here is sadly reflective of the readership’s view on PWD. Apparently not worth the time or effort.

    4 comments, seriously? An article about a comment on another post is in the hundreds, and this gets 4? WCD’s stint was similarly ignored. If a TAB had posted the “You white?” conversation the site would be falling over under the weight of all the arguments and counter-arguments, instead – dead air.

    For shame.

  6. Andrea
    August 20, 2010 at 8:25 pm

    Paraxeni,

    I think many TAB (myself included) tend not to comment on posts like this because, at least for me, I think a better approach is to simply listen to what those with disabilities have to say for themselves. That doesn’t mean we’re not reading the posts. Hopefully it means we’re shutting up and listening to a discourse that’s not about our experience.

  7. Paraxeni
    August 20, 2010 at 9:23 pm

    Yet that’s never true on posts about LGBT issues, POC/BME posts, or posts about religion. Only ever posts by, and about, PWD.

    Wow, I’d think perhaps I’d underestimated the sensitivity of TAB readers if it wasn’t for the fact that Chally’s recent post attracted several “Waaah, what about the TAB carers!” comments.

  8. August 20, 2010 at 9:52 pm

    Paraxeni, my disabilities make it hard for me to stay focused enough to write a comment at times. This doesn’t mean I’m not reading and enjoying.

  9. August 21, 2010 at 8:46 am

    Paraxeni – it is true about many posts on issues affecting nonwhite folk, queer folk, poor folk, old folk, and on.

    It’s an observed phenomenon even within a subset of issues; on FWD we see posts about popular TV shows, movies and music explode with hits and comments, while posts about global issues, gov’t policy, technical issues, get passed by.

    It’s not particularly right, true.
    I’m just uncomfortable with the “it only happens with disability! look at how much attention POC get!” angle.

    This series is meant to be chewed on, mainly, so I get why there aren’t a ton of comments — I expected this one to be low-comment. But, yes, it is a phenomenon across our culture. We are raised to be fluent in talking about pop culture, and fluent in judgment against others, but we just aren’t given the vocabulary to talk about deep-rooted social inequities. Even people who are aware, who are paying attention, often have trouble wrapping words around these subjects.

  10. Partial Human
    August 22, 2010 at 10:11 am

    I didn’t read that comment as “Look how much attention POC get”, but a criticism of the fact that if a TAB had posted about someone denying their POC status then the comments would’ve been buzzing. Instead Dancer (who is a POC) was met with a small handful of comments that either cast doubt that the experience even occurred, or insinuated that she’d misunderstood what had been said to her. If she’d been TAB then she wouldn’t have been doubted. Even the usual POC commenters ignored the post.

  11. Paraxeni
    August 23, 2010 at 10:03 am

    Thanks PH. You nailed it.

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