Dear abled world who is constantly trying to rob me of my identity, this is for you.
I’m autistic, I need predictability to be able to navigate. My need for predictability is not an access need to you. My disability is denied. My reality is denied.
I can’t walk more than a few meters, and usually I need crutches. My ability to walk is impaired compared to what people in my age are expected to be able to do. This is usually seen as a valid disability, and my need for wheelchair accessible buildings is most of the times treated as a legitimate access need. My reality is validated.
I have ME. It’s a disease that has caused my inability to walk. Being ill with ME has also given me a shortage of mental energy, and I can’t focus for very long. This is a cognitive disability, but it’s rarely recognized. It’s the kind of disability that does effect my ability to perform in many areas, like speaking with my mouth and processing sounds. This is never recognized as a valid disability. My need for written communication isn’t considered an access need. My disability is denied. My reality is denied.
I have ADHD. I always think of at least 8 things at the same time. It’s exhausting to exist, and I need a lot of quiet time on my own without anything disturbing me. This is rarely seen as a disability. My needs are denied. My reality is denied.
I’m autistic. I need people to say what they mean and stop the camouflage talk, since it exhausts me to decipher and translate non-autistic language all the time. This is never considered an access need. My disability is denied. My reality is denied.
My body is too weak to stand up from the bath tub after having washed my hair. I need a handle bar on the wall and a shower chair to sit on. For occupational therapists that don’t know what ME and POTS are, this access need doesn’t exist and my reality is denied. With occupational therapists that have knowledge about ME and POTS, this access need is recognized and met. My disability is validated. My reality is validated.
I’m autistic. I interpret information differently than what people expect me to do. I interpret myself and my feelings autisticly. I think autisticly. I need to be understood as an autistic person, but that’s not considered an access need. My disability, personality and identity is denied. My reality is denied.
People tell me that I’m not allowed to identify with my disabilities, that I’m not my disabilities. Sometimes people tell me that I’m my disabilities shouldn’t affect my capability, that all I need is some accommodations and I should be able to perform like a person without disabilities. But I am my disabilities. I’m autistic, remember? My disabilities are lived experiences. The way I think and interpret information, it’s not possible to not be my disabilities, but I’m not even allowed to own my identity as disabled without the abled world trying to correct me.
What counts as a disability or as an access need is rarely obvious and just as rarely decided by us, the people with the lived experiences of disability. Pretending that everybody is agreeing on what a disability and a met access need looks like is nothing more than an efficient way to silence disabled people.