Now, I’m sure many of you are probably thinking I’m picking on Christy Smith. That is far from the truth. What I was pointing out was the attitude of “Help me! I’m disabled” that is an effect of internalized ableism. See, as a “poor unfortunate soul” of what is considered disability, one tends to get the message from the world that disabled means incapable. It is often the message one gets for various disabilities, including deafness and autism. That, however, is not reasonable accommodation.
Reasonable accommodation is the practice of bringing in a technology or technique which helps the “disabled” person help themselves. In the case of Ms. Smith from Survivor, visual cues in the competitions is a reasonable accommodation. Besides, it can also help those who are more visually oriented. I was not picking on Ms. Smith for a reasonable accommodation. I was simply pointing out that internalized ableism really scars the attitudes of those with disabilities, even to the point of thinking people are going to pity you.
What is a reasonable accommodation? Well, anything could be. A ramp or elevator to get on the speaking stage is quite reasonable, if I may say so. My mother rides a motorized cart for distances longer than those needed to get around our apartment, and that’s quite reasonable. Many people wear glasses for driving, reading and other sight-related tasks, and nobody is going to argue against that being reasonable!
What I was talking about was that we disabled, as a people, are inclined to think disabled means incapable. That, in a nutshell, is a form of ableism. It is an insidious form, one driven by stereotype. This form of ableism is more subtle, more pervasive, more effective in keeping us down. Would it surprise you that people with disabilities are perfectly capable of handling relationships, for example? Would it surprise you that many of them vote?
Speaking of voting, my mother rides a motorized scooter, as I have said before. Our voting area has mostly standing-height voting booths – little plastic voting shields atop a standing-height table. Would it be too much to put a few of these down on a regular table, with a chair, and to remove the chair when a wheelchair or motorized scooter – riding voter shows up? I’m just saying.
That is a reasonable accommodation. Pity is not. In fact, there is little effectiveness in pitying someone. It only makes a point of putting a person in an inferior position, and nothing else. What help or accommodation is there in that?