why it’s important to talk disabilities

My mom, a woman with complex #disabilities, has gotten used to me photographing her about once a week, as part of my activism in making women with disabilities visible. Today I came for a visit, and didn’t remember our weekly ritual. Through pantomime and her 30-40 word vocabulary, she protested and demanded a photo. These are the last two photos of my #inspiring mother for a while.

I post her photos as part of my activism on the issue of women with disabilities, and I always make sure to mention the fact that she has a complex disability. Last week, someone on Facebook noted that she loves the photos, but the fact that I keep repeating and mentioning her disability disturbs her. I asked her why, as I wanted to understand. She said that if she didn’t know my mom had a disability, she wouldn’t notice, and that she would treat her “normally,” as if she didn’t have a disability.

20882667_1669038946479678_2476041861263325823_nThis view of people with disabilities is quite widespread, and there is a big problem with it. I will explain, giving as an example my personal experience with my mom. My mom’s disability is complex – the CVA (Cerebrovascular accident) has affected the whole of her right side of body, as well as the communication center in her brain, leaving her with an extreme case of aphasia. Aphasia is an inability to comprehend and formulate language. Thus, my mom has challenges getting around, she can’t cook, she can’t shower herself, and she needs assistance in most of the daily activities. Due to the aphasia, her vocabulary is limited to some 30-40 words. This situation has demanded of us – my dad and me – to adapt and change our whole lives according to mom’s needs. My dad showers her and cooks for her every day, and I care for her three-four times a week. When I am with her, I cannot treat her “normally” like I would any abled-bodied person. I must adapt to her rhythm and movements, slow down, and I must speak in simple sentences, making sure she understands what I say. I must be attentive to what she is trying to convey to me through the limited vocabulary, combined with her body language.20882149_1669038989813007_7415963278472488778_n

So, no. We cannot treat people with disabilities as if they were able-bodied, as that would be doing them injustice, and might result in harming them. We – and when I say we, I mean the whole of society – must adapt and must make room and must become inclusive of individuals who are “different,” who are the “other,” be it individuals with disabilities, individuals from the lgbtq community, people of color, or any other “others.”

The way to make our society inclusive is by no means by ignoring the differences, as then we would be deleting that part of their identity. The way to make our society inclusive is by talking about the differences, instilling in our children acceptance and tolerance towards all “others,” and finding ways to make our societies truly inclusive.

I’ve included in the comments links to texts I have written about my mom from the personal to the political.
#disabilities #disability #womenwithdisability #womenwithdisabilities #women #inspiring #feminism

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