This week, we are thrilled to be sharing a post by Kimmie Jones, author of “That Girl in the Wheelchair” and self-advocate. We were struck by Kimmie’s post on the way we often put people with disabilities on a pedestal. When we assume that we will love them all, and that they are all perfect, we ignore the fact that they are people, too, and that people are imperfect. Thank you, Kimmie, for this incredibly insightful post! And without further ado…
Contrary to popular (and very generous) stereotyping, people with disabilities are not all gentle virtuous souls who need to be treated with kid gloves. We are not always nice. We are not always inspirational. And pedestals do not come standard issue with diagnoses.
Whew! That felt good to say!
People seem to like visuals, so here is photographic (albeit horribly unflattering) proof:
In my 31 years of living with Muscular Dystrophy and flowing in and out of various disability groups, I can affirm that it takes all kinds to have a disability. There are kind people. There are funny people. There are boring people. There are ‘woe is me’ people. There are people that want a pat on the back for everything they do. There are people who talk incessantly (guilty). And then there are people that are just plain ol’ b-holes. Sometimes these divergent personality types are clouded because according to those with very little direct experience, we are all “positive disabled people, with great spirits and patience.” That BS is pretty much the stuff Chicken Soup for the Soul books are built around. I mean it’s great and all, but the assertion that all people with disabilities can do no wrong is completely false. [Tangent: If you don’t believe me, read my blog about Oscar Pistorius. Sheesh.]
I know, I know. We as a people have worked REALLY hard to stave off the villainous wheelchair monster stereotype, and I do agree that the 180-degree change in typecasting is preferable. Unfortunately, it’s just not realistic. People in wheelchairs (or who have any other kind of disability) are people first. I, for one, can’t be expected to be a source of inspiration at all times. Sometimes, I get road rage or hang up on telemarketers or swear like a sailor when I forget to DVR Real Housewives. Sometimes, I have absolutely zero patience and cry and scream when I’m having a long day and I’m hungry and just wanna go to bed! [Tangent: I promise I am 31 and not a toddler…but it happens to the best of us!]
As much as I wish I could be, I am not always a sweet, patient and positive individual. Despite my best efforts, my attitude isn’t always great. Sometimes it really sucks. And if it does, you should let me know. Don’t let me get away with it.
You wouldn’t let someone else, would you?
–Written by Kimmie Jones, self-advocate and author of “That Girl in the Wheelchair”, edited by KIT staff
Read her blog That Girl in the Wheelchair here.
Kids Included Together (KIT) is a non-profit located in San Diego, CA and Washington, DC. We help make the world a more inclusive place by providing live and online training to people who work with kids. We teach strategies, accommodations and best practices to include kids with and without disabilities in before & after school programs. Inclusive environments create stronger communities. Learn more about our work at www.KITonline.org.