What My Friends Taught Me About My Internal Ableism And What We Can All Learn From It

It’s interesting because while I live with my disability, it’s not actually something that I think about on a day-to-day basis. I’m just too busy living my (best) life and getting on with things. However, occasionally there will be a moment that causes me to stop and pause for a moment. 

One of these moments happened when I met up with a friend who I’d only caught up with in person a few times before but never together alone. Before we get to this moment though, you’ll need a bit of back story. 

If you thought I was open about my disability online, then you haven’t seen some of the conversations my friends and I have. So, of course, prior to this catch-up, this particular friend and I had talked a lot about my disability and I allowed them to ask whatever questions they wanted. We also talked about us being alone and whether this was something they were comfortable with (because when things go wrong with my disability things can get personal but also scary and this is never a situation I’d want to put my friends in). 

I should have known from the start that they would be completely fine (before they said yes). The offers to help with tasks that I’ve only had support workers do and the stupid jokes about what my wheelchair can do were all signs. However, the speed at which they were comfortable helping me is something that warms my heart. 

And it’s not like helping a normal friend. It’s like recognising that I can’t reach something, can’t open something, need a straw with my drink, etc 

Going back to that day, I don’t think I’ve ever had a situation where I felt like I had hung out with a person fifty million times before. Haha maybe it’s past life things and our souls have met before or maybe it’s when you found people who accept you. For them to see my disability and yet not think anything of it. For them to recognise what I need help with and not even have to think or ask me before doing it. 

The interesting thing was that I didn’t even recognise a sense of internal ableism (which quick recap for my new readers – ableism is the exclusion or discrimination against people with disability because of their disability or can be thinking less of them as a result of their disability. Internal ableism is when a person with disability has these thoughts) within myself prior to this situation. The fact that I even questioned why a situation like this couldn’t be normal. It wasn’t until another friend said “that’s how it should be” that I did a double take. 

Why as someone with a disability are we almost conditioned to see our needs as extra work (even though that’s not the case). That why my physical needs would make me a hard person to be friends with. 

If we break this down and deep dive into some therapy that I did with another friend (shout out to them as they put up with my hopeless romantic side *puts Taylor Swift’s “Invisible String”*). It’s not just about platonic friendships, it’s the internal thought that romantic relationships would be harder due to my disability, for them physically and for me being that vulnerable. And yes, there are definitely different hurdles that we would have to overcome. However, doesn’t every relationship have an element of this? No one is perfect. 

If you’ve gotten this far through what is basically a therapy session for me, congratulations. But what if we relate these feelings and situation back to the broader society. 

Why are children not brought up learning about disability so that situations like this are normal not only among friends but among strangers (obviously without assuming things on behalf of people with disability – which is a fine line when I write it out like that). 

I’ve said it before, but if everyone learns AUSLAN at school then Deaf or hard of hearing people wouldn’t face situations where they can’t understand anyone. If every building had ramps or lifts then people with a physical disability would be able to access everything and wouldn’t have to be thankful for a basic need. 

At the end of the day, maybe this blog article is just a long way of saying thank you to that person, who knows who they are. Or maybe it’s to show that people with disability are just like everyone else when given the opportunity. Or maybe it demonstrates that out there, there are people who really do love you for all of you, romantic, platonic and everything in between.

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