Wednesday, August 02, 2017

Disengage

Sometimes it just seems easier to disengage. I notice, at times, when I'm in a group of non disabled people who are actively not noticing my difference and the only way they can do that is by not noticing me, it's a real fight to speak up, to be heard and to be taken seriously. It can be exhausting being both highly visible and completely invisible at the same time. And sometimes, it's just easier to sit back in my chair and to disengage. Socially, for me, disability means disappeared an awful lot of the time.

I do have energy and I do have voice. But it takes extra energy and an almost strident voice just to make a statement that is incorporated into the broader conversation. Most people I'm sure have to work to make their voices heard but there is a 'standing supremacy' that leads to the privilege to dismiss people like me, with voices closer to the ground.

This doesn't happen to me at work.

It doesn't happen to me where my role is known and valued.

I'm speaking of ordinary social situations.

I don't expect people to defer to me, if that's what you are thinking. My disability doesn't make me more important than anyone else and it sure as hell doesn't make me less important. Sometimes I just want to be part of, rather that actively, purposely, intentionally, included. I don't want it to be 'work' to hear my voice and I don't want to work harder than anyone else for my words to have impact.

Sometimes it just seems easier to disengage.

We are, or it may be just my perception, not made welcome in public spaces. There are barriers to entry. Stairs to building is one kind of barrier to entry. Running the "gauntlet of stares" is another kind of barrier. But the barrier that seems most daunting is an unramped entry to social existance.

2 comments:

Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt said...

I get that, even without the walker, because I need to sit. And I'm female. And old.

Just not there, as far as many people vying with each other to be the center of attention are concerned. It only takes one pushy person per group to bring the group to a simmering conflict of one-upsmanship. We're easy to remove from the equation.

L said...

I once went to a dinner where the person seated immediately to my right literally turned their back on me to talk to the person on their right,

and the person immediately to my left literally turned their back on me to talk to the person on their left!

I don't think they would have done this if I had not been the only wheelchair user present at the table.