There’s something about this experience of being both hyper visible* as a disabled person and hyper invisible as a disabled person. Not invisible in the sense that people can’t tell that i’m disabled, that’s something else entirely (i’m not going to talk about having disabilities which sighted folks don’t perceive, even though i also have those). i mean invisible because i am seen as disabled.
Here’s just one most recent example. Today i took a ride on a bus. Waved to let the driver know i needed the ramp, then backed up so it could be deployed. Several people walked on ahead of me while the driver was trying to put the ramp down. Lalala same old same old. When i got on, there were too many people blocking the aisle and the wheelchair spot and i couldn’t manouevre into position, so asked if folks could please move down a bit so i could get in. Nothing. No one moved an inch. So i asked again, with more detail, “can you folks please move further down the aisle because i need to move forward so i can reverse into position?”. Nothing. “OK i need you to either move back or get off the bus for a few seconds so i can get into the wheelchair spot”. Nothing. These folks just stood there and stared at me. A couple of them moved literally 2 inches, but otherwise nothing.
i was about to tell folks i would have to run over their toes if they didn’t move, when the bus driver started to drive and i was like “hey driver wait!” She came to where i was and was like “what’s the problem?” i said “i’m still trying to get folks to move so i can get into place”. She said to them “OK, move back so he[sic] can get into his[sic] spot”. And y’know what?
They. all. fucking. moved.
It doesn’t seem like much, but that means something. Having lived in this body long enough, i know what that is. It’s that, if they’re sighted, they see me, they can’t help but see me in this brilliant blue scooter with crutches sticking out the back. But they also don’t see me. They don’t see me as even worthy of basic acknowledgement. It’s not that they didn’t hear me, or couldn’t figure out what i was asking or how to do it.
It’s that they just didn’t give a flying fuck when it was coming out the mouth of a gimp.
This, after having people staring at me like (as i told my bear earlier today, sorry to fellow vegetarians for the image) “like i had a plucked christmas turkey covering my head” (like, my head up its ass) while i rolled around filling in some paperwork (which, just to be clear, I DIDN’T HAVE A FUCKING TURKEY ON MY HEAD, and i know this because i have a handy dandy mirror on my scooter). This, after going to both the official “Disability Services” of the site and them not having any idea where to find public accessible parking but at least the person was nice, if surprised; and then to “Parking Services” where they looked at me like i had that fucking turkey on my head, brought out some maps which showed nothing of use, couldn’t tell me specifically how i, as a person with a disability, could get to the access parking, “maybe-there’s-an-elevator-over-there-but-i-don’t-know”, and i left the office feeling more lost than when i went in. i knew more about accessible parking there than any of the folks being paid to sit there and dole out parking information lol. And i don’t even frequent the damn place!
If this was a one time thing, i might ponder it, but it would be an anomaly. This isn’t an anomaly. This and worse is part of my fucking life. Every day. People who are supposed to know, don’t know shit because they don’t have to know, it doesn’t impact them, and there’s no accountability. Why? Because in an ableist world disabled folks talking is not the same thing as able bodied folks talking. One carries weight, knowledge (ha!), importance, relevance, worth. And the other doesn’t (even and sometimes especially when it comes to disability).
How can a person be visible and invisible at the same time? Do you see me? Like, really see me? Not just see that i have some kind of disability, but that i also have ideas, opinions, lovers, hobbies, all that shit? Folks yes of course are busy busy busy, and some folks won’t move for anyone they don’t see as an “authority”, but that’s not all of it. They choose to perceive me in certain ways, limit me to this one small idea, they take me out of my body, my life, my loves, because it’s easier to just see me as a disability –> a liability –> an invisibility. And when they do that, it makes me yeah, wanna run the fuck over their toes.
Sometimes, the thought of playing one of the 3 roles a disabled person is supposed to take (angry/bitter, pitiable, or inspiring) is fucking tantalizing. You guess which one tripped my nerves today.
*i’m no fan of the whole visible/invisible language, but will use it here for shorthand.