Every other day a hashtag appears on Twitter and causes controversy. I first saw this 'shit abled people say' hashtag last Saturday and after scrolling through the comments disabled people shared, I decided to add a few of my own. My somewhat naive self didn't realise that by disclosing a few of the hurtful, uneducated or ignorant remarks said to me, I'd receive further, hurtful, uneducated and ignorant tweets.
This hashtag for me, and for my fellow disabled friends who I've spoken to, was a way to communicate how we have been treated by sharing our experiences, and a way of educating abled people on things not to say to a disabled person. Because, believe it or not, disabled people are victimised every single day. There's still people out there that don't know how to talk to us, how to approach us, what to say to their children when they point at a wheelchair; it happens, and by us talking about it, it brings attention to what you should/n't be doing. I know there'll be people reading this who don't believe me, who think I'm exaggerating, or attention seeking - call it whatever the fuck you like, but as a disabled person, I know I'm treated differently. I haven't manifested these stereotypes, I haven't dreamt them up to get views, but basically, if you're not disabled (or really close to a disabled person), you have no idea. And quite frankly, it's really disheartening when people think they know what I've been through, what I continue to go through by occasionally looking at a tweet I write. Ableism is a word because it happens, just like racism, and sexism - we aren't making this up.
If you've never thought that way, never said something ableist, or don't know anyone that is, then kudos, but just because you, as an able bodied person hasn't, doesn't mean that a disabled person hasn't. Your able bodied privilege cannot negate the hatred or rude encounters a disabled person has had. It's as relevant as, 'well my friend is black.' Yes, s/he might be, but you can still be a racist. A disabled person can be ableist, it doesn't make you immune because you have a friend/know somone/are.
I've shared these tweets because they are the most liked and retweeted of the few that I wrote regarding the hashtag. Nothing I shared was directed at anyone, they are simply things that have been said to me regarding my disability. The hashtag wasn't about slagging off every person without a disability, it was about getting the disabled community talking. And after all, it's my Twitter, and I can say whatever the bloody hell I like.
The majority of abled people that follow me were supportive, they learnt, and they shared my story to help me educate even more people. But there was obviously the other side, those who were outraged at the marginalised disabled community speaking out. I received quite a lot of negativity, and myself and others took the opinion of, 'if the shoe fits.' Surely, if you're that affronted by a few tweets from community that never usually have a voice, you're the problem. The hashtag wasn't a dig at all abled people, and one criticism I heard was, 'well it should be #shitSOMEabledpeoplesay'. Look, if we wanted to generalise it'd have been #shitALLabledpeoplesay, and, shockingly it wasn't, so I don't see what the problem is. We're talking about OUR experiences, OUR lives, not everything is about the privileged; at least let us talk about something you know nothing about, and keep your anger for your ignorant privileged friends who also can't comment on what it's like to live with a disability.
I try my best to stay clear of drama (this is the first real Twitter attack I've experienced), I suffer really badly with anxiety and confrontation sets me off terribly. However, there's people on Twitter that seek an argument, that revel in making others feel like shit, and what better people to attack than the bunch of disabled kids. Heard that saying, 'if you haven't got anything nice to say..'? Yeah, more people need to take that on board.
A comment which I found quite disturbing (and surprisingly it was said twice) was, 'what if the hashtag was shit disabled people say?' Well, my friend, please do tell me all those times you've been victimised/bullied/attacked/made to feel like dog shit by a disabled person because you're healthy! Because you can take part in society. Because you are othered. I can't even comprehend the idiocy of that statement. My eyes have rolled so far back in my head.
I was also called 'angry.' I'm not angry at the world, I'm angry at those who assume they know my story, and what I'm about. I'm always willing to educate, I'll answer any question about my disability as long as it's asked with good intentions. I actually received a lovely DM from a follower that asked me if she's a 'bad person' because she sees me as a person and never looks at disabled people as anything other than 'a person'. This is what we need more of. Awesome people like her asking questions. Seeing disabled people as people.
This is also not an 'us' and 'them' kind of thing. I see myself as Sarah, I'm a person, but I'm treated differently because I don't look like the rest of society, and this is all because of my accessibility needs (my wheelchair). I don't see people in the street and think 'abled' or 'disabled', I see people, and that's all we want. That's why we need to speak up, why we need to use our platforms to shout about disability rights. And as much as I wanted to delete my digital footprint from the internet the other day, I won't let a few impolite folk stop me from campaigning for a better world for my community.