On the Notion that Having a Disability is Tragic

A handicapped parking spot

In my observations, many (but not all) attitudes about people with disabilities seem to fall into one of two categories: either someone is an “inspiration” just for living with the disability, or the fact that someone has a disability is “tragic” and sad.

Many of the disability activists I know of, through following them on social media, try to push back against both notions—the notion that they are inspirations and the notion that it is tragic that they have the disability. However, I want to focus today’s post on addressing this notion that exists among some of us that having a disability is a tragedy.

Why do some people view it as tragic? It’s because of the fact that in many cases, a disability that exists out of the control of an individual can limit what someone is able to do—everything from the jobs one is able to do, to the subway stations in New York City one is able to enter into or exit out of. These limits that exist therefore make the disability itself tragic.

I can see where the “disability as tragic” mindset comes from, but in thinking about why a disability is viewed that way by some of us, I can’t help but ask the following question: Is it the disability itself that is tragic, or instead is it the fact that many homes, employers, governments, individuals, houses of worship, and other places don’t even bother to make the effort to make their part of the world more accessible to people of a variety of disabilities? You see, in a world where all of us made an effort to make sure that people with a variety of disabilities are included fully, then we would be in a world where one’s opportunities are not limited by disability. In a world where all this effort is made at accessibility, then the limits would be fewer and farther between (if they were to exist at all). And yet, nowhere near enough effort is made at this.

It is that lack of effort at making sure people with a variety of disabilities have a fair shot that is particularly tragic.

To address the tragedy, we need to cut out the excuses. Yes, it costs money to build ramps and elevators, add accommodations for braille, and make sure there are sign language interpreters where that is necessary. But if we really wanted to make sure all human beings have a fair shake, then we need to find a way to make sure that people with a wide variety of disabilities are accommodated.

14 Replies to “On the Notion that Having a Disability is Tragic”

  1. Thank you so much for writing this post. I completely agree with everything that you’ve said here and this is actually a point that I work very hard to get across to my followers – that society has made my life harder than my actual disability ever has. All it would take is people caring more about educating themselves about accessibility and caring enough to spend the extra money to make it happen. I truly appreciate you spreading this message to your followers.

    Liked by 4 people

  2. OMG, yes. My building has a ramp inside the entrance, but has a normal step outside that nobody in a wheelchair could possible get up by themselves. It’s pointless if they can’t get into the building in the first place.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. And what you experience is something I see all too common. Another example was how my church used to have a ramp leading from one part of the church to another, but there was no ramp to get into the church to begin with (a ramp has since been added, thanks to my current pastor).

      Like

  3. This is a wonderful post and it helps me. I get angry at people who shout at those I know who are blind or who assume people with cognitive disabilities are not sexual beings. Far better to take the repair the world stance.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Thank you for sharing! All of the sadness non-disabled people have towards disability gets absolutely nothing done when so much could be changed, and I think this is definitely one of my biggest annoyances in regards to the subject. Disability isn’t a tragedy, but ableism sure as heck is.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Hey BB! Thank you for your post. I cannot walk, so I guess that makes me disabled. I quickly learned that while the ADA is handy, in many cases, you are on your own. I kind of took it as a challenge, I expect. I had an accessible house built. I got a van with a ramp. Learned how to weld so I could fabricate what did not exist.

    I thought I understood disability. Why? Because I adapted. Recently, I have opened my eyes a bit and saw how ignorant I was. Disability is so very much more. As I have learned about the horrors of others and the persecution they face it made me feel pretty stupid. I have plenty to learn. I thank you for the work that you do.

    Much appreciated. Brad

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for reading my post! We all have plenty to learn, for sure. And plenty to learn from other experiences–for example, for me, learning that some people are put in situations where it is impossible to simply “adapt.”

      Like

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