Saturday, November 18, 2017

What It IS

Scrolling around the research on the lived experience of having a disability to find two studies, one British and one from the US. The British study showed that 1/4 of Britons would choose to avoid conversational contact with people with disabilities and the American one showed that neurotypical people are less willing to have social contact with people with autism based on 'thin slice judgments.'

These studies talk about the bias that non-disabled people have towards disabled people.I find reading this kind of research difficult because I'm yelling at the screen as I'm doing so. "CALL IT FUCKING BIGOTRY!" Bias? You cut fabric on the bias, you cut the fabric of society with YOUR bias. It's serious, really serious. I'm glad the research is being done because it matters that we know this.

I can tell story after story about being erased from social context because of my disability and difference. Joe can attest to these experiences because he's the person who becomes doubly real as I am made doubly unreal. I recently checked into a hotel at a chain where I am an elite member - I stay with them a lot. The clerk after being reminded twice that it was my name, not Joe's, on the register and my card, not Joe's in his had to pay for the room, did look at me. He explained in painful detail, so that even I could understand where the restaurant was for breakfast.

I asked him if the hotel had an executive lounge, I'm an elite member, I get to go there for a free breakfast. He said, "You want to go there!?" with shock. He clearly didn't think I belonged there or that my presence would upset others.

Research may call that 'bias' I call it fucking, outright, bigotry.

Journals do an important job, they are restricted in important ways in their presentation of information. They are to be congratulated for publishing information that verifies the voices of disabled people who speak of personal experiences to disbelieving audiences, or maybe not disbelieving so much as purposely wishing to believe that your experiences are 'just a couple of bad apples.' So it's the job of those who read to read and believe and then react with empathy and understanding.

Bias hurts.

Prejudice hurts.

Bigotry hurts.

These aren't constructs, they are real, physically and emotionally experiences for those of us who live in the real world full of real encounters with those who'd rather we weren't here.

And by the way, supper in the executive lounge was wonderful, particularly the looks on the faces of those who were stunned at the entrance of me in my chair ... yes all those watching, the definition of who's elite just got bigger, rounders and sits on wheels.


clairesmum said...

Words hurt.
The existence of the 2 studies is a start in documenting that bias exists and trying to measure it. Words can and do lead to change..over time.
Change happens in individuals, bias is a shared attitude across many many people/places.

I know you have made me examine and change my own thinking/attitudes/behaviors. I try to change behaviors of those around my by suggesting a different way of viewing the person in their care. I model what I think is kind and respectful. (Old people, especially those with any degree of dementia or differentness, are devalued and depersonalized in the ways you describe.)

And I wish I could have seen the looks on the faces - around the room - and maybe a tiny grin for you and Joe - that shared knowledge of the foolishness of supposedly important people.

Dave - brave. Joe - sturdy. Dave and Joe - wise.

Jenni said...

I am afraid it's worse that 25% of Brits. Scope, a UK disability charity, did research which found that 67% of British people would feel 'awkward' talking to a disabled person. See:

It seems reasonable to suggest that, if people feel 'uncomfortable' talking to someone from a specific group, they will therefore go out of their way to avoid doing so.

Elliefint said...

Jsyk, a lot of autistic people are really uncomfortable with person-first language. I don't "have" my autism just as I don't "have" my lesbianism. Both things are part of who I am. I can't speak for everyone, obviously, but it's the position of major autistic organizations like ASAN and AWN. I'm not sure where I'm going with this, it just made me feel weird reading you say that. Sorry.

Shannon said...

"You want to go there?" That is so blatantly rude and bigoted. I know there is a difference of opinion on the person first language. I don't really care if someone calls me a person with a disability or disabled person, although I'd rather just be a person unless we're discussing disability. I'm fine with wheelchair user. I dislike handicapped, physically challenged, differently abled, the still ubiquitous wheelchair bound, confined to a wheelchair, being called a wheelchair or "the less fortunate."

Elliefint said...

Idk if you were responding to me when you responded to the person-first thing, but it seems like probably, since I mentioned it in mine. I understand that there are lots of different views on that. I just think that for autism in particular people tend to be specifically sensitive about it, or at least I am and autistic people I know are. I'm used to having people use us as a prop in ways that rely on the idea that autism is some extra thing that can be obtained or disposed of, e.g. "Vaccines will give your kid autism", "gluten free food gets rid of autism" among other reasons.