Life Lessons: Fighting Discrimination in Education

School is already a battleground, but what happens when you’re fighting disability stigma too?

So, full disclosure: its 6:20pm on Tuesday here, I woke up this morning full of intentions to write this post first thing, upload it and get on with my day…that’s not exactly what happened. Instead, I woke up, had to cancel some flights for someone who is stranded in China, had to make a bunch of phone calls for other stuff, tried to get Ed Sheeran concert tickets, failed at getting Ed Sheeran concert tickets, ate pizza, napped and woke up just now.

Having said alllll that, let’s go.

 

As some of you may know, I was born with Spina Bifida, which is a spinal birth defect and in essence means that I walk with crutches, can’t feel anything below my knees and a bunch of other complicated medical stuff that I can’t be bothered to explain. Google is your friend there guys! And because I grew up with a disability, I’ve had 26 (almost 27) years to deal with the discrimination, stares, questions and downright rudeness that that sometimes entails.

 

This blog post isn’t going to be a “poor me” whingefest, it is going to detail some discrimination that I myself, and many others like me, have faced and continue to face on the daily.

I’ll go back as far as I can remember I guess.

 

I vividly remember being in kindergarten, and telling a teacher I needed my aide to help me go to the bathroom, she accused me of being a liar and making it up to get out of class time, which led to an unfortunate accident which was VERY noticeable for everyone to see. When my grandmother came to pick me up from school and I was in tears, my grandmother spoke to the teacher and demanded to know why I had not been allowed to use the restroom, and the teacher really didn’t have an answer, and so my grandmother asked “did you stop all other children from going to the bathroom?” and the teacher replied sheepishly, “well…no.” BOOM, that’s discrimination.

 

Imagine learning that at the age of 5, the idea that if you ask to utilise an aide to do something as basic as access a bathroom, you will be denied because your teacher, who is charged with overseeing your care for 6 hours a day, thinks you might be making up the need to poop! (A little side-note to that story: I’ve long since gotten over the trauma of that incident and have even gone so far as to forgive the teacher in question. My grandmother has not, she maintains to this day that that particular teacher is an awful person).

 

When I was 12, I went to one of my very first school dances, and a boy (who I thought was very cute, FYI) asked me to dance. I thought I had died and gone to heaven, as 12 year old girls are prone to do when boys notice them. So, we danced, until one of the other girls made the snide comment that he only asked me to dance because he felt sorry for me. Now, I don’t know if that’s why he asked me to dance or not, but I do know that that girl was clearly discriminating against me (and being a straight up bitch, too). Not only was that ableist bullshit, but it was yet another incident of girls being mean to other girls, and putting them down for the sake of it. Girl hate is a whole other bag of bullshit that I might write about one day.

 

When I was in high school (from years 7-10) P.E. was a compulsory class, and guess what? Not one single teacher made an effort to be inclusive or to play sports that could be easily adapted to include a person in a wheelchair, so I was either made to sit and watch quietly on my own, or sent to the library to read a book. I like to think that in the 10 years since I stopped having to do P.E. classes they’ve gotten a bit more inclusive, and have made an effort to include those with disabilities, but I wouldn’t be at all surprised if that wasn’t the case.

 

The thing that sticks out for me looking back on those bloody P.E. classes was that when my parents or I dared to ask why they weren’t adapted to include me, we got blank stares and platitudes. Finally, in year 9 I told my parents not to bother anymore, I couldn’t be bothered to fight that particular battle and had told myself so often that I hated sport that I didn’t care (in hindsight, that’s not true, the few times I got to go to wheelchair sports camps I had a blast!).

 

That kind of discrimination is bloody exhausting, especially since I was a self conscious teenager and the last thing you want to be seen as by your peers is “different” and the teachers make no effort to be inclusive.

 

When I got to university, I had one very memorable professor look me up and down as I walked into the lecture hall and say “excuse me miss?” and when I replied he said “are you sure you’re in the right place?” and so I reply “this is sociology 102 right?” and he says “yes, but are you sure you’re not looking for the special education unit?” WHAT. THE. FUCK? That was in roughly 2010 or so, not 30 years ago or something. I was speechless but when I gathered my wits, I walked out and went straight to the Dean of the University and lodged a complaint. Might have been overkill, still don’t regret it. He was required to apologise directly to me, and to undertake sensitivity training (I’d be willing to bet he never did it).

 

All of these examples come directly from my time at school and university, and if I had unlimited time and space, I could write pages and pages about the shitty things people have said and done, but the whole point of this is that discrimination is so disgustingly ingrained in our society that rarely is it questioned or challenged. It’s time for that to change.

Leave a message in the comments about discrimination you’ve faced or seen and let me know how you handled it.

 

Millennials VS Everyone else: Why are Millennials depressed?

Ask a baby boomer or a gen X-er about milennials and they’ll roll their eyes and lament that Millennials are whiney, lazy and unappreciative.

According to wikipedia, baby boomers were born anywhere from 1943-1960 and are therefore anywhere from the age of 57-74 years old as of 2017, Generation X were born anywhere from 1960-1970s/1980s (the demographics on that one are a bit sketchier) and Millennials are defined as being born starting anywhere from the 1980’s-Mid 1990’s, although some sources say that its anywhere from late 1980’s up until early 2000’s.

My grandparents are baby boomers, my parents are generation X and I am a millennial (sometimes known as a Generation Y).

My grandparents often lament Millennials as whiny and lazy, as well as pointing out that they’re unemployed and use mental health as an excuse to do nothing. This trend of lambasting the newest/youngest generation is not new, it goes all the way back to Socrates, who allegedly said “The children now love luxury. They have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise.”

If Socrates thought that those younger than him were bad mannered, disrespectful and preferred gossip to exercise, it’s pretty obvious that the trend of the older generations bitching about the younger generation isn’t new or innovative, nor is it a direct assault on the youngest generation, moreover it is a societal trend that has been around since recorded history.

That begs the question, what does the older generation gain from insulting the younger generation? And in the case of baby boomers, gen X and millennials, how does pointing out the rise of mental health issues in Millennials add anything to society? The short answer is, it doesn’t.

When I look at my circle of friends, nearly all of them have been on anti depressants, anti anxiety or a plethora of other drugs designed to adjust brain chemistry. To me this is a great thing, because it means these people who mean the world to me went to their doctor, spoke about their struggles and got help. But when I talk to baby boomers or Gen X-ers, I hear the argument that it just means that Millennials are weak cry babies who can’t “suck it up” or “tough it out”.

This argument is fucking toxic, and it pisses me off. It makes me so angry that I can rarely formulate a good response to the “debate” that I know is coming.

I found one study that had the following results:

  • Depression Diagnoses

○ 19% of Millennials

○ 14% of Generation Xers (ages 34-47)

○ 12% of Baby Boomers (ages 48-66)

○ 11% of aged 67 and older

  • Anxiety Diagnoses

○ 12% of Millennials

○ 8% of Generation Xers

○ 7% of Baby Boomers

○ 4% of aged 67 and older

Based on these stats, it’s pretty clear that Millennials are the most diagnosed in both categories, and that the diagnosis rate drops substantially as we go further back in generations.

There are many reasons why this could be happening but I won’t actually speculate on those because I am not a statistician, or a scientist, or anything which would qualify me to speculate on the reasons why. What I will say is that the increase in diagnoses of mental health disorders in younger people is not because they’re lazy or unappreciative or weak, it is because they were brave enough to seek help, to say to those around them or their doctor “I am struggling, I am depressed/anxious/stressed and I need help”

Millennials are by far one of the most unique generations, we’re living at home with our parents longer, moving out and then coming back, unemployed at higher rates, don’t own our own home until we’re much older, or maybe not at all, because it is much harder to get into the housing market these days. All of these concerns lead to one big factor which plays a huge role in mental health concerns: STRESS.

Baby Boomers and Gen X-ers like to point out that at “their age, I had a steady job, my own home and a family!” as though Millennials are wilfully ignoring the perks of a steady job and their own home, and the fact that their own family might be quite nice (not taking into account the perfectly valid decision that kids are not on the cards for some). It is statistically proven that getting into the housing market is much harder for Millennials than it has been in the past, and frankly, in most Australian cities the rental market is no better. Add to that, that after the economic bust in 2007-2008 (now known as the Great Recession), the job market stagnated, the cost of living rose, and the housing market became even more inaccessible and it’s no wonder that Millennials are stressed, depressed and anxious in record numbers!

All of that is to say, while it is somewhat of a cultural tradition to pile onto the youngest generation as the “laziest yet” or the “whiniest yet” it’s not helpful, it’s toxic and harmful and it’s all round a dick move.

Chances are, if you’re reading this, you’re a Millennial and to you I say: Keep doing what you’re doing, get help if you need it, and remember that just because you’re young doesn’t mean you’re any less valid in society.

If you’re one of the few Baby Boomers or Gen X-ers reading this, to you I say: Please think about what you believe about Millennials and do some research, because Millennials are just doing the best they can with the world they inherited.

 

If you’re struggling with mental health concerns, please speak to your doctor, a trusted friend or call your nearest helpline.

 

 

 

Thirteen Reasons Why: I won’t be finishing the hit Netflix series…

“13 Reasons Why” is the hit new Netflix original series that has stirred up a lot of feelings on the internet. It deals with some seriously heavy subject matter, so some trigger warnings are in order: sexual assault, suicide, death, bullying.

Also, major spoiler alerts below, so if you plan to watch it, stop reading right now.

Full disclosure, I started watching this series and got halfway through episode 6, so exactly half way through the series, before I stopped watching. When I first gave up on it, I couldn’t have told you why, I just stopped; however, now I can pinpoint why: it made me uneasy, in the extreme. Now, before you say “well duh… it’s supposed to” I want to say this, I revel in TV and movies that make me feel icky and uneasy, I love horror movies, suspenseful thrillers and shows like Law and Order: SVU which constantly deals with topics of sexual assault and the like, and I have an almost disturbing fascination with true crime shows like 48 Hours which I will binge watch at midnight. This was a different kind of discomfort. This was the kind of discomfort I felt when I hear about the kind of apathy that seems all too prevalent in society these days, when the message of “bullying is bad” is so overused that it has genuinely lost all meaning and people mock that message.

To give a brief background, the story revolves around a teenage boy named Clay, who receives a set of 7 tapes recorded by Hannah, who recently committed suicide, on each tape, there are 2 sides and each side focuses on one individual who Hannah blames in some way for her suicide.

Some of the reasons are, at face value, petty; fights between friends etc, but quickly it turns darker. Hannah is the victim of bullying and rumours, stemming from the fact that she kissed a boy, who started a rumour that she performed oral sex, among other things. As this is one of the first reasons we are presented with as to why Hannah committed suicide, I was on board with the show at that point, bullying is a leading cause of teen suicide in many developed countries, however it gets murkier and darker from that point.

It strays deeper into territory that should be dealt with carefully, especially in the context of teenagers, mental health and suicide.

As the series continues, it becomes clear that Clay isn’t the first person to hear these tapes and that they are in fact, a somewhat open secret within his high school community. It is implied that the only people who have heard them are the people who have a tape recorded about them by Hannah. Those who have heard the tapes prior to Clay have not contacted the authorities, nor have they made any notable effort to reach out to Hannah’s parents to apologise for their roles in the suicide of their daughter (whether they should or not is also an entirely different issue, suicide is a personal decision, but people should not target someone to the point where the victim feels that suicide is the only way out). It is clear that Hannah’s parents are reeling from the apparently shocking suicide of their daughter, who as far as they were concerned was a normal teenage girl. Hannah left no note to her parents detailing why she chose to end her life, and her parents find that one of the most difficult aspects to comprehend, which is a very common reaction to suicide of a family member or friend.

This is one of my bigger concerns with this show: the obvious implication that if you’re struggling in any way as a teenager, the last thing you should do is confide in your parents or another trusted adult. The show glorifies the idea that teenagers should manage these thoughts without outside help and nothing could be further from the truth. Anyone who is struggling with thoughts of depression or suicide should seek help.

Suicide is never a solution. There are no caveats to that statement, no “except in the case of…” nope, none of that, suicide is not a solution. Thirteen Reasons Why seems determined to portray suicide as an appropriate way to handle bullying, isolation and trauma. The entire premise of the show is revenge, wherein Hannah tells the chilling tales of what each individual did to her and thus blames them for her actions.

I’m sure most adults recall people who bullied them in high school, or if they weren’t bullied, at the very least recall something awful someone once said, and at the time they probably thought that revenge would be a great way to address the problem, but with the benefit of hindsight few adults would say that getting revenge on a bully was the way to handle it. That’s not to say that adults have all the answers, or that adults can accurately recall what bullying feels like, however the benefit of a few years distance from an event can have a massive impact on the ways we would have handled it if we had a “do-over”.

In recent weeks this show has been controversial. From the research I’ve done it is popular among teens, and not so much among adults. This could be many factors, but my suspicion is that it is because it seems so unrealistic in some ways and hyper realistic in uncomfortable ways.

The unrealistic aspects are the fare of normal Hollywood films: one of the male characters  (who is meant to be in high school) had full sleeve tattoos and wouldn’t have looked out of place in a nightclub, which is jarring when compared to the main male character who looks much closer to the age he is meant to be portraying,  coupled with the fact that for the most part the parents are absent in the extreme, and there seems to be no consequences when the teenage main characters do things that are not only unacceptable behaviour but also occasionally illegal. This lack of consequences for behaviours such as under age drinking, drugs and sex is yet another example of why this show should not be marketed towards teens.

 

In essence, I stopped watching this show because it glorified the idea of suicide as revenge and made it seem glamorous. Suicide is the least glamorous thing a person can do. It is permanent, it traumatises those left behind immeasurably, and in the case of 13 Reasons Why, if it is done in revenge, the person who takes their own life cannot see the consequences and see if the revenge has “worked”.

 

If this article has sparked any thoughts of depression, self harm or suicide, please call lifeline (in Australia) on: 13 11 14 or Kids Helpline (Australia) on: 1800 55 1800.  If you are outside of Australia please call your nearest mental health helpline.

What Feminism Means to Me

Feminism is one of those words, you know the ones I mean, the words that are sure to arouse some sort of response in the person you’re talking to, and sometimes you can’t be sure what the response will be. Some of the most open minded men I know, who I thought were feminists baulked at the idea that I had labelled them as such.

Leaving aside the issue that I had presumed to place a label on someone else and had been summarily chastised when I had been incorrect in my assumption, I find it so interesting that there are still men in 2017 who feel that being called a feminist is somehow “icky” (for real, I know a guy who told me being a feminist was “icky” and that no one respected men who identified as feminists).

A super scientific poll (that I just conducted with 3 male friends, with rigorous methods obviously…) concluded that out of the 3 men polled, precisely none of them identified as feminist, despite the fact that I had never heard them say anything remotely anti feminist; which brings up the point, if you don’t identify as a feminist does that make you an anti feminist? Is it a movement whereby you’re either with us or you’re against us? I personally don’t think so, because I know these 3 men pretty well and know that they believe in equality and that their rejection of the feminist label doesn’t come from the belief that women aren’t equal to men in all aspects. In saying that, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t ever so slightly disappointed that these 3 close friends didn’t identify as feminist, but I know that projecting my own labels is a dick move (lesson learned, see above).

But I do wonder if the word “feminist” has become dirty because of the root of the word, “feminine” has always been seen as the “lesser” and will continue to be seen as such unless something huge changes. It is slowly changing though, and for the better, more men are identifying as feminists but they are still in the minority. Even my own father, who  has a daughter, a wife and mother, doesn’t see himself as a feminist, because he doesn’t see that there is more progress to be made. A lot of women’s rights issues he puts down to different religions, cultures or politics, rather than just an all pervasive culture of “feminine is lesser”.

Feminism means a lot of things to me, and hopefully through the course of this blog I will get the opportunity to discuss as many of them as possible. I hope that eventually calling myself a “feminist” won’t result in an eye roll or being called a “filthy SJW” (Being chastised for being a Social Justice Warrior is deserving of it’s very own blog post, and who knows I might get around to in the future).

Feminism to me, will hopefully mean that one day, all women will be able to walk down any street in any city in the world without fear of being harassed or catcalled. Feminism to me, will hopefully result in the closing of the wage gap, the ability for women to access reproductive health in an affordable and timely manner, for women to feel safe and free from persecution just because of their gender.

Feminism to me is the striving for equality, and it is not the MRA movement, and the cries of “not all men”.

I hope for a future where feminism is the norm, and anything but is an abberation.

 

 

Bullet Journal 101

I’m going to be that annoying blogger who jumps on a concept bandwagon way too late and write about bullet journalling.

Seeing as the Blogosphere is saturated with posts about bullet journalling at present and has been for a good while, I’ll keep my description of the concept brief: It was first created by Ryder Carroll (you can go to his website here for a more thorough and in depth explanation of the system) to put it briefly, the idea of a bullet journal at it’s simplest is to use bullet points and signifiers to denote individual tasks, appointments and events in an organised way.

The system has become incredibly popular among people from all walks of life, from stay at home mums, to small business owners, to company CEO’s, and for as many different types of people who use the system, there are dozens more variations and individualised approaches to the journal.

I started using the bullet journal system in November of 2016 when I was participating in National Novel Writing Month and wanted to keep track of how I was progressing as well as have a convenient place to put all of my notes together for the novel I was attempting to write in 1 single month.

I used the traditional system devised by Ryder Carroll, having a monthly overview in list format, then a weekly layout, and then subsequent daily layouts to closely track my progress and collate “collections” of various things, such as major plot points, characters, and settings, which strayed from the more traditional system and incorporated more of the spreads that can be found on pinterest and all over the internet frankly.

After using the system for the entire month of November ’16, I realised that the system was perfect for me. i’ve never been a well organised person, I am a continual procrastinator, but at the same time, I love to check items off a To Do list and feel that sense of accomplishment. I began to use the journal every day and started to track important things such as tasks I needed to be certain I did every day, like taking important medications, which stopped me from wondering if I had really taken that day’s medications or whether I was thinking of how I took it yesterday.

This system is so simple it’s sort of crazy, you can divide your journal up into as many subsections as you like, and you only ever set up the page you’re using that day, so you’re not stuck with a rigid format that you can’t change after the fact, if you discover something isn’t working for you.

For example, a lot of people use a weekly layout where they put all 7 days of the week in a 2 page spread in their notebook and have all of their appointments, goals, and deadlines in that spread. My life isn’t that busy and I have been keeping my blog related deadlines in OneNote so I really wasn’t feeling the need for a weekly layout and it seemed like a waste of paper, and also it was a bit depressing to see how empty my calendar is of fun stuff to do! So in order to stay motivated I have daily layouts, and often the night before, when I’m also checking off the things in my habit tracker (I’ll get to that very soon) I think about 3 things I want to achieve the next day and write them down under a heading with the day and date, and sometimes if I’m feeling decorative, I’ll include a signifier to show what the weather is supposed to be like that day, but I often keep it really simple.

Now, back to habit trackers: these have been life changing for me, and I mean that literally. I now have a very specific set of things I do on a daily basis and I am a much happier and healthier person for it.

I am not going to show photos of my own bullet journal because frankly I’m ashamed of my messy handwriting (hopefully that is improving though, I’m doing a handwriting course and will have a review of that soon!) but basically a habit tracker is exactly what it sounds like. I have a list of eleven things I do every day, and that I check off every night. At first these were things that weren’t habits and I wanted to start incorporating them into my day, but now, months later, I do them automatically and get to pat myself on the back for it! Like I said before, I love checking things off on to-do lists, it gives me this weird sense of accomplishment, so this form of positive reinforcement works for me. It also helps to remind me to do important things like take life saving medications, which is a nice little bonus. In recent times I’ve started to switch up the things I include in each month’s habit tracker, just to see how that affects my day and how I feel, and I think I’ve finally settled on a good balance of “yeah, you should do that because it’s basic human stuff” like showering, and “you did extra well today, good job you!” like working on an extra blog post or figuring out how WordPress works above and beyond how I use it now (still definitely not there all the way on that one, it’s a learning curve.)

In simple terms, a bullet journal is one of the only organisational tools that I have stuck with for longer than 3 months and I truly think I am a better, more organised, more reliable person. Plus I don’t forget dentist appointments now…

 

Have you used a bullet journal? Do you want to know more about it? Let me know in the comments down below

 

 

Austensibly Ordinary by Alyssa Goodnight- A review

Austensibly Ordinary is a novel which follows the main character Cate Kendall, a high school English teacher who loves Jane Austen. Cate is bored of her life, and wants to shake things up. Just when Cate thinks she’s going to be stuck in her rut forever she finds a mysterious journal and thus begins a rollercoaster which includes a saucy alter ego, a mysterious but handsome man, and uncovered secrets about her long time Scrabble partner, Ethan.

This novel is…something, that’s for sure. I’m not quite sure if “something” is good or bad, even as I was reading it I found myself putting it down and sighing with frustration at the glacial pace of the plot, and simultaneously confused when the plot seemed to surge forward to an entirely new subplot with little to no warning.

As I was flipping back through the early chapters to write this book review, I realised that this book defies categorising in a genre. It has elements of mystery, supernatural with an overall wrapping of chick-lit, with some literary references to Jane Austen thrown in for good measure, I guess?

This book meanders… my god, it meanders for page after page, with an inner monologue from the primary character that left me with the urge to do a shot of vodka just to force myself through the next chapter (I didn’t do the vodka shot, I wanted to be on top of my game to write this review). The “romances” come in two varieties, “insta-love” and “oh my god, I just realised I love you”. Without going into too much detail and spoiling the entire book, it’s a horrible mass of cliches when it comes to romance. I suppose one could argue that Jane Austen used cliches to write her romances, but her books are remembered as classics…this will not be remembered as such.

It’s like the author spun a big wheel with a bunch of different plot options on it and picked them at total random, then looked at the list of results and went “yeah, this works.” In my opinion it does not work.

Everything I’ve read about writing a good book review say that you should write about the things you disliked about the book first, and finish on the positives, so I’m going to give that a try… Bear with me.

It…has words?

Okay, but seriously, the book is pretty awful. It might be worth the read if you’re looking for something that you can literally zone out to while you read it, and don’t really care about engaging with, because let me tell you, you are unlikely to feel any empathy for the whiny main character in her quest to “shake things up”

In summary, read this book if you feel you might like it, but don’t go pick it up based on the punny title (exactly why I picked it up, and clearly I didn’t love it) or if you’re under the impression that it will make you think of Jane Austen as a literary genius and hold Alyssa Goodnight up as her equal.

Goodreads average rating: 3.27 stars out of 5. (at time of publication of this blog, there are 297 ratings, and the majority are 3 stars)

My rating: 1 star out of 5.

Able-bodied normality- what is it and how can we fight it?

Able bodied normality

Why is it that being able bodied is seen as the default, the norm? Is it because the majority of people are physically able bodied or at least perceived to be that way?

Able bodied is defined as “fit and healthy, not physically disabled”. At face value that makes sense right? If you’re able bodied your body is able to do normal activities of daily living as well as recreational activities. What about those who are able to do activities of daily living, but do so in an adjusted way, for instance showering whilst sitting in a shower chair, or using a wheelchair to be mobile, what if they do the same things as so called “able bodied” individuals but in ways which are adjusted to their physical capabilities, does that then make them somehow less abled? Or is it just that they’ve adapted to a world which takes two arms and two legs functioning at full capacity as the status quo?

At face value it makes sense that the majority is considered the norm, but when it is considered how harmful that mentality it is, it becomes blatantly clear that the idea of a “norm” is inherently biased towards those who fit in with the norm and actively excludes those who are outside of it.

This is seen in all facets of society, and is by no means limited to able bodied vs physically disabled, it is seen in males vs females, black/latinx/asian/Indigenous populations vs white.

When these examples are examined carefully the trends are frightening, society has this “default” setting which allows certain demographics to get ahead in life, while actively holding back those who are outside of this default.

In western countries it comes as no surprise that white males are statistically more likely to go to university or college, have high paying white collar jobs, own their own home and car, and have disposable income; and because society has these advantages ingrained for white men, it is again no surprise that white males comprise the vast majority of those in positions of power.  A quick google search revealed that at Stanford University 42.5% of the whole student population is white and 52% of the whole student population is male. I could go on and on about the disparities in higher education and how the system is predisposed to advantage white middle class males, but I think the point is made.

This blog post could honestly go on for pages and pages and pages, on all the inequality in society and the way those who are viewed as “other” are pushed aside in favour of the “normal”, but I will endeavour to limit my discussion to disabled vs non disabled.

If we flip the norm on it’s head and view disability as the norm, and those who are not disabled as the outliers, society looks very different, all buildings would be entirely accessible to 100% of the population, there would be adequate public restrooms for all those with disabilities. These 2 accommodations for those with physical disabilities are so far outside the norm for a lot of people that it is hard to fathom the idea of that even being possible.

As you’re reading this, I want you to walk through a busy street in your hometown/city in your mind, and count how many of the shops/businesses have obvious disability access, and how many either don’t have access at all, or have a sign pointing to some seedy alleyway, where a ramp is accessible but requires more effort to get to. In my hometown, with a population of around 50,000 you’d be surprised to find that a lot of businesses don’t have disability access, and how many people accept that as the status quo, and when I raise the fact that a business has stairs out the front I get met with blank stares as if to say “So?”

It’s not unusual for disabled access to be placed somewhere out of the way, as though being disabled makes you less than, and means you should enter through another door. I vividly remember being 16, going to the NSW parliament house on a school excursion, and having to go almost around an entire city block, to get to the wheelchair access, and then having to wait another 15 minutes for someone to buzz us in, because no one was watching the door camera of that entrance. It may seem like a minor inconvenience, but imagine doing that for almost half of the public buildings you want to enter, and having to wait until someone acknowledges your existence before you’re allowed entry. It’s exhausting, both physically and emotionally. Physically because you have to go further to access the entryways, and emotionally because it further emphasises your “otherness” and makes you even more of an outlier than you were before. And let me tell you, at 16, being other is so not what you want.

These seemingly small inconveniences build up over time and leave me feeling exhausted, and angry. It may sound like nothing when you read this single instance, but imagine being disabled, 26 years old, and still having to do that every time you want to go somewhere new and you’re unsure what the access is like, or worse, having to decline invitations to places or events with friends because there’s just no feasible access at all.

Which brings me nicely to the point of disabled access public restrooms. The number of times I’ve heard people say something like, “They’re not ONLY for disabled people, they’re for everyone, it’s just that people with disabilities can use them too”. Geez thanks, for allowing me the privilege of peeing in a public restroom, how generous of you. You have the ability to go into any stall in the women’s bathroom, and it’s no problem at all for you, whereas I have to make sure the disabled access bathroom is unlocked (some places hide the key in the centre management area, and then I have to go all the way to that office, and all the way back to the bathroom), make sure no one is in it, make sure it’s been cleaned sometime this decade, and then I have the privilege of voiding my bladder. I cannot tell you the number of times I have waited outside a bathroom thinking that someone with a disability is in there, and someone walks out and won’t look me in the eye, or worse, mumbles something like “the line was really long at the other restroom”

Without getting too graphic here, I’m going to take a second to talk about the fact that with my specific disability, I don’t get a whole lot of warning when I need to go to the bathroom, if I gotta go, I really gotta go, yes there are times when I’ve had to wait because someone with a disability has been using the disabled access bathroom, and that has resulted in my having an unfortunate accident, which while it’s embarrassing I can deal with it because I know that the person who was using the bathroom was probably in the exact same situation as me. But when someone walks out of the bathroom, and blushes bright red and mumbles a half assed “apology” about the big line at the women’s/men’s restroom, I see red. I rarely say anything, because I’m already busting for the bathroom, so time is a factor, but on the few occasions when I have said something I have been met with defiance, and anger. And on a few memorable occasions with flat out insults.

In essence, it appears that a small portion of the population views disability of others as an inconvenience to them rather than an inconvenience to the person with the disability, and this prevailing attitude of “well it inconveniences me, or makes me feel uncomfortable” is why people with disabilities have been, and still are, treated as outliers and undesirable members of the community.

Imagine your very being is viewed as an inconvenience or something to find uncomfortable, imagine people averting their eyes or pulling their children closer to them as they pass as though we’re to be feared or are contagious. Now imagine, others view you as disabled, and solely disabled, no other facets to your identity, no other attempts to delve into your personality or exploration of your goals and aspirations. These are all issues people with disabilities face on a daily basis.

In essence, people with disabilities are people! It’s not difficult to treat people with disabilities like you treat everyone else, and that does not mean treating them as “special” or doing that sickly sweet condescending way of talking as though they’re either doing us a favour by speaking to us at all, or that we’re too stupid to understand “normal” speech.

Treat people with disabilities like people and we’ll all get along perfectly fine.

If you think I’ve missed any important points please feel free to leave a comment down below! Keep it respectful and friendly guys!