Have you ever felt like an outsider looking in? Felt the burning frustration as your fingers grasped for acceptance just out of reach? This is the silent struggle of the disabled community. In a society tailored for the able-bodied, our disabled brothers and sisters find themselves trapped in an invisible cage of misunderstanding and prejudice. Society as a whole doesn't openly accept disabled people willingly. It is the norm not to mention a disability but silently the acceptable thing is to ignore it and hope never to encounter it.
As children, we eye those with visible disabilities with sidelong glances, absorbed in innocent curiosity yet tainted by the ableist undercurrents of our culture. Adults are no better, averting their gaze and fumbling for words. Discomfort breeds avoidance, and avoidance breeds fear. How much richer we would be if we had the courage to push past the barriers between us! Why isn't disability a societal norm instead it is something that makes even the most accepting of us uncomfortable.
Society assumes those with disabilities suffer, as if pain and sorrow are necessities rather than possibilities. Have we forgotten that suffering is part of the shared human condition? Joy and purpose are not the domains of any one group. Life brings twists and turns for all. Disability fluctuates along a spectrum, often closer than we care to admit. Who are we to assume life with a disability is a fate worse than death? Is adaptation not the hallmark of our species? We can adapt to change faster than any other species on the planet but not when it comes to people who are different to us be it physically or mentally.
And what even is this notion of “normal” we peddle? A myth, a fable, a bedtime story we whisper to lull ableist minds to sleep. There is no normal, only variations on a theme. Disability is but one melody comprising humanity’s infinite symphony. Must we conform to rigid able-bodied standards to secure that elusive approval? I say vocalize your unique song! Disability is not “less than” - it is harmonious variation.
This ableist world was not built for disabled bodies. Access denied reads the sign upon sign. Doors close, announcing YOU SHALL NOT PASS in bold letters. But would it not be simpler, fairer, more just to construct ramps rather than barricades? To privilege inclusion over exclusion? Accessibility lifts all - disabled and not. Is this not the world we claim to build in honour of diversity?
And don’t get me started on the stigma surrounding mental illness! The whispers, the slurs, the shame. As if the mind were not part of the body! As if treatment were not a right, but a privilege! Have we decided, judge and jury, that some disabilities merit compassion while others do not? I will not stand for this false dichotomy - will you?
What will it take for us to see common humanity beyond disability? Beyond race? Gender? Sexual orientation? Creed? The hour is late, but not too late. We must pry open minds rusted shut by stigma. We must allow disabled voices to lead the charge, not trail behind. Only then can our world begin to heal.
I know, because I see glimmers of light peeking through the invisible cage of ableism. Moments of connection where souls touch, unhindered by bodily constraints. Acts of empathy, empowerment, and love. There is hope yet for justice. But we must choose to act, however imperfectly, rather than resign ourselves to complacency. What future will we build together? One defined by diversity, or one confined by fear? The choice is ours.