Features & Essays

Sometimes I am an Ableist Too

Can we all just agree that the world isn’t as black and white as today’s culture likes to make it out to be? Let me explain. I have recently been doing research on how to make my family (myself, my husband, and my son’s) lives more sustainable and eco-friendly. While reading these articles and blog posts I become very frustrated with the language that is sometimes used. “Anyone who uses plastic is a drain on the environment.” “There is no reason to buy pre-packaged or pre-cut fruits and vegetables.” And as an abled body person who has access and funds to buy nearly any type of fruit and vegetable that I want my mind thought that for a half a second until my husband got home. My husband is a speech therapist for a public school district. He works mostly within the special-education community. I realized that I had forgotten about people with disabilities, which is really dumb of me to do since my sister is autistic and my mother has multiple sclerosis.

People with disabilities have different levels of abilities, and different situations of care. A person who doesn’t have full use of their hands and fingers should not be denied a salad just because they don’t live with a caretaker.

Mind you being a mother with a stroller has made me realize how many places do not follow the Americans with Disabilities Act. Within the last month my husband and I have found shopping mall parking structures without ramps or working elevators (this mall has gone multiple months without this working elevator, and we assumed last week that “it must be fixed by now.”) I have dealt with stops on the DC Metro without working elevators, and countless restaurants where there just isn’t enough room to walk with a stroller or car seat and a baby bag. I cannot imagine what my mother, who is using a motorized scooter part of the time, and a walker at other times, must think or have to go through when leaving the house.

I am privileged to be healthy with a strong marriage and a healthy baby. I have the freedom to think about my carbon footprint. Not everyone does. If your child is on a feeding tube for many years, those must be changed and they are made of plastic, reusable straws are not designed for disabled people in mind (they don’t bend well), restaurants are not designed for shy people who need walking room or room for a wheelchair. While I may want to live a more sustainable life with my family, I can, but I shouldn’t judge others for what they are doing because I do not know what their situations are, I don’t know your life, and I can only do what is best for mine, (but maybe we can all ask Amazon to use something compostable or biodegradable in its packing material).

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