A few months ago, I was sitting in the break room at my job at a skincare clinic, discuss- ing skincare routines with my coworkers. We were debating methods of cleansing the face: do you use a wipe, a liquid cleanser, or a tool? I was on team cleansing tool. I told my coworker that I used a spin brush to buff in my cleanser, and her response confused me: “that’s gross,” she said with a cringe, “those things carry bacteria like crazy”. I sighed and explained to her, “I have a disability, I can’t cleanse my face without it”. She continued to tell me how my method of cleaning my skin was irresponsible and that I needed to throw the brush away. This was one of many examples of ableism in my life. Ableism, the discrimination or dismissal of people with disabilities, is one of the biggest hurdles our society has to face.
These little rebuttals of my way of life have been happening for twenty-two years. Baristas scowl when I ask for a 16-ounce hot drink in a 20-ounce cup. Waiters are confused when I ask for my grilled chicken to be cut into bite-sized pieces in the kitchen. How can an adult not know how to cut her chicken? It’s simple: at the age of three months old, I had a traumatic brain injury. My parents rushed me to the hospital, and at the end of their visit, they looked at the evaluation sheet. The box
marked “cerebral palsy” was checked off. In a matter of minutes, my parents had a disabled child.
The muscles on the right side of my body have not grown since that day in 1999. Every few years, I would head to the Nemours DuPont Hospital for Children in Wilmington, Del. and Dr. Kirk Dabney would open me up, inject me with muscle relaxers, stretch me out, and send me to therapy.
I’m aware of the financial and emotional burden I was on my parents, family, and friends. Too many times I’ve asked my friends to take a rest while on a walk or asked my parents for
extra physical therapy. “It’s okay,” they say, “you can’t help it”. I see a society that wants to pretend I don’t exist. I’m not seen as being a desirable partner because I’m not athletic, I have bad genes, and my arm and leg look funny. I’ve never seen a
girl who looks like me be portrayed as a love interest on television or in movies.
I’m tired of staying silent and pretending like ableism doesn’t affect me on a daily basis. Ableism exists anywhere and everywhere. From the lack of elevators in buildings, lack of disability awareness and education, the ableist language in our daily vernacular, the ableism in the American healthcare system, and the way our society looks down on disabled people, I’m tired. I shouldn’t have to explain my actions that stray from the societal norm. Disabled people shouldn’t be pitied; we should be celebrated.