Thursday, April 23, 2009

The Invisible Crutch

The Invisible Knapsack of White Privilege, conceived by Peggy McIntosh, discusses the many things a white person takes for granted, in list form. As a white person, many of these things were uncomfortable to read, but I also saw reflected in them the things that men, wealthy people, and non-disabled people take for granted.

I've decided to build an invisible crutch from things that constitute abled privilege, without repeating too much of what is in McIntosh's list (so read her list, and substitute "disability" for "color" for many of those things).

1. I can, if I wish, arrange to attend social events without worrying if they are accessible to me.

2. If I am in the company of people that make me uncomfortable, I can easily choose to move elsewhere.

3. I can easily find housing that is accessible to me, with no barriers to my mobility.

4. I can go shopping alone most of the time and be able to reach and obtain all of the items without assistance, know that cashiers will notice I am there, and can easily see and use the credit card machines.

5. I can turn on the television and see people of my ability level widely and accurately represented.

6. I can be pretty sure of my voice being heard in a group where I am the only person of my ability level represented--and they will make eye contact with me.

7. I can advocate for my children in their schools without my ability level being blamed for my children's performance or behavior.

8. I can do well in a challenging situation without being told what an inspiration I am.

9. If I ask to speak to someone "in charge", I can be relatively assured that the person will make eye contact with me and not treat me like I am stupid.

10. I can belong to an organization and not feel that others resent my membership because of my ability level.

11. I do not have to fear being preyed upon because of my ability level.

12. I can be reasonably assured that I won't be late for meetings due to mobility barriers.

13. I can use most cosmetics and personal care products without worrying that they will cause a painful or dangerous reaction.

14. I can usually go about in public without other people's personal care products causing me painful or dangerous reactions.

15. My neighborhood allows me to move about on sidewalks, into stores, and into friends' homes without difficulty.

16. People do not tell me that my ability level means I should not have children.

17. I can be reasonably sure that I will be able to make it to a regular job every day.

18. I know that my income can increase based on my performance, and I can seek new and better employment if I choose; I do not have to face a court battle to get an increase in my income.

19. My daily routine does not have to be carefully planned to accommodate medication or therapy schedules.

20. I can share my life with an animal companion without my ability to care for them being called into question due to my financial and ability situations.

21. If I am not feeling well, and decide to stay in bed, I will likely be believed and not told that I am lazy and worthless.

I am sure there are more that I haven't thought of. Do keep in mind that I've tried NOT to copy Ms. McIntosh's work, because there's no need--most of what she says definitely applies to this list as well.


Andee J. said...

You're back!

Great to see you again, Rio.

And this is a great post. A lot of this stuff applies to my neurological orientation, too.

Andee (Meowser)

Pat Greene said...

This is a great post. A lot of this applies to mental illness (I'm bipolar along with having fibromyalgia).

The only I could add would be "I can be angry or upset and not have people attribute my anger to the effect of taking or not taking medication."

Anonymous said...

This is really excellent, thank you for writing this!

@Pat Greene: a lot of it does apply to mental illness; I've been tempted to do a mental illness/psychiatric disability focused list, but this does cover a lot of it.

Reluctant Matron said...

I'm also really glad to see that you're back. :-)

Ettina said...

One thing I realized recently is that most people, if they make a social blunder, can expect that people will understand how they could make a mistake like that and be somewhat sympathetic. As an autistic person, I can't expect that - my social blunders don't make sense to most people.

annaham said...

I forgot to comment on it when you first posted it, but this post is awesome.

Anonymous said...

I'd also add, "You can ask for assistance without people thinking you're stupid, incompetent, or just too lazy to do it yourself."

Matthew Smith said...

13. I can use most cosmetics and personal care products without worrying that they will cause a painful or dangerous reaction.

14. I can usually go about in public without other people's personal care products causing me painful or dangerous reactions.

Do people with allergies and chemical sensitivities consider this a disability? My cousin suffered from precisely this condition for several years up until about 2004, and we all had to watch what we put on ourselves if we were going round there or she was coming here (and we did so often as we are quite close). At no point (to my knowledge) did any of us talk of her being disabled or having a disability.

However, products aimed at actual disabled people often fail to take into account that some of these people also have allergies or sensitivities. For example, I was reading a blog by a wheelchair user who said that her cushion, which is essential for her to minimise pressure sores, is made of rubber, to which she is allergic. She deals with it by covering the cushion and making sure to touch only those parts which aren't made of rubber, but it seems a curious oversight.