Recently, I’ve heard a lot about how ableism exists in our society and how to push back against it. For example, saying that someone is “confined to a wheelchair” paints a very different picture than the truth. Wheelchairs give their occupants the freedom to go wherever they want and using words like “confined” or “stuck” can be very disrespectful.
Another thing I read about concerns people with physical disabilities that make it hard to walk. There is a “tradition” where these people will forgo their assistive devices to walk across a stage to receive their diploma or walk down the aisle at their wedding, even though it can be an extremely painful experience. Stories like these are presented in a way that makes them sound inspirational and heartwarming when really, our society should be more accepting of these people and their disabilities.
Disclaimer: I am not disabled. Perhaps there are people who see it as a moment of pride to be able to walk without those devices for a few short moments, though they shouldn’t feel like they need to in order to “look normal” or enjoy their special day. Everyone is different, and I cannot fully understand what it is like to be disabled.
My point is that our society needs to recognize disabled people for who they really are instead of using them solely as inspirational stories. We need to make changes in order to be a welcoming, inclusive society. These changes range from adjusting our vocabulary to normalizing accessible architecture and media to ensuring that airlines take proper care of their passengers’ wheelchairs.
Disabled people want to live their lives just like everyone else. It is well past time to make sure our society is built for that.