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Wednesday, November 1, 2006

Seeking Signs of Life from PWDs

I think I finally figured out why haven’t followed through much on my attempt to write more about life with a disability on The Casual Critic. Every now and then it occurs to me that the internet should be the ultimate equalizer for people with disabilities, and I troll the web seeking to truly connect with others living life with a disability.

It takes about an hour before I am ready to abandon the subject for another six months or so. I’m never quite sure why, except for the sick feeling I have in my stomach.

I usually start at the New Mobility message board, which reads like someone wrote down dialogue in a high school cafeteria. Then I’ll check for some news on people with disabilities, only to find search results filled with stories on legal issues. Eventually, I’ll find an agency or two looking to help people with disabilities conquer the world, as long as they are paid oodles of money by some government agency “supporting” the “client” who must unquestioningly follow the same prescribed plan that fails time after time.

Recently, I found this ridiculous article in New Mobility that suggests the unemployment rate among people with disabilities “. . . still comes down to, do you really want to work?” Not sure whose ass this moronic author is kissing, but he clearly has no clue about life with a disability. In a 3,400-word story, Jeff Shannon never once brings up prejudiced employers, useless advocates, or a toothless Americans with Disabilities Act.

In 34 years I don’t think the central fact in my life has ever changed. Life with cerebral palsy means never truly being a full member of society. For all the so-called progress made by people with disabilities, the fact is we are still the most discriminated against minority in society. It seems to me that the biggest reason for this is that we are simply too diverse.

People who become disabled view the world differently from those who were born with a disability. Those with speech problems face prejudice others cannot comprehend, while those centered on major health issues have little or no concern for employment issues.

There is no sense of unity, not even a hint of a truly unified “movement” among people with disabilities. Each group has its unique issues, and we spend all of our energy squabbling with each other about useless topics like politically correct speech.

I’ve spent the better part of this year attempting to tie The Stores at Royal Steele to the right charity, garnering barely a nibble of reply. I can’t even get groups to forward my promotional e-mails to their members.

Whining? No. More like wondering. Wondering if we’ll ever have blogs talking about every day life with a disability without getting bogged down in medical or systematic issues. Wondering if the disability community will ever be moved to support each other’s business ventures, artistic efforts, and the like. Wondering if government funded advocates will ever realize that, whatever their primary focus, enhancing the sense of a true disability community should be part of what they do.

Sadly, it seems like I’ll never stop wondering.

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