So I was watching NBC’s new comedy “Superstore” which I highly recommend and there was an episode that spoke to me in a way that TV episodes haven’t in quite sometime. The episode follows the crew of the store Cloud 9 as magazine has come to do a photoshoot for their next issue. One of he characters Garrett, who uses a wheelchair dreads the shoot as he’s had experiences with magazines taking pictures of him because a guy in a wheelchair working makes for a good story. Throughout the episode are scenes where one of the cameramen follows Garrett throughout the store hoping to snap a picture. Eventually, Garrett has to walk around the store with his middle fingers up in order to make getting a good picture impossible. While a person with a disability being employed makes for a good story to a person who’s never lived that experience, for us it’s honestly just another day, same shit different toilet.
I grew up with a lot of doctors and teachers telling what I was and wouldn’t be able to do. Many teachers were convinced I wouldn’t survive past sixth grade and had doctors telling my mother I would never be normal. It’s easy to see why people are so flabbergasted to see someone with a physical/intellectual disability doing what any other person would normally do but, to us it’s really just business as usual. I’ve had a friend in a wheelchair get told that “you’re such an inspiration” for being out at a bar with all the able-bodied folk when in actuality, He just wanted a fucking drink like anyone else would. He wasn’t trying to prove anything or draw that sort of attention to him, he just wanted to go out for a drink, it really wasn’t a big deal to him. One night during my college years I got trashed at one of our usual restaurants. While one of my friends was carrying me out, one of the patron’s asked my friend why my voice sounded the way it did. My friend told them I was Autistic and the patron followed with “why would you take an Autistic guy out to get drunk?”, he then turned to them and said “excuse me, he’s a grown ass man”.
Former teachers who had doubted me were surprised when I told them I was in tenth grade and then were even blown away when I told them I was in college. I bet ya they’d shit themselves if I told them I graduated college with a 3.4 G.P.A. Me graduating college seems to be a huge deal in my family but to me, it was business as usual. Some are probably stunned by the idea of me, an Autistic guy who holds a job, pays his own bills, drives, goes out to bars, pays his own bills, and shops for himself. To you it seems like sorcery but to me, it’s just another day. At the end of the day, we’re really not that different from you. Sure people with disabilities experience the world differently but, we’re really not all that different. I get up, I shit, shower, eat, commute, work, commute, eat, maybe party, maybe, hangout, maybe even date just like the rest of y’all. I’m not saying it isn’t okay to be impressed, we just don’t want to hear it all the damn time. We’re tired of hearing it and some of us hear it more than we need to. We honestly just want to live our lives.
I understand our history and where those with disabilities came from just to have the same rights as the rest of the populous but, that doesn’t give people an excuse to treat us like we’re some peep show. Taking a picture of someone in a wheelchair or with a noticeable disability doing what everyone else does because it’ll make for a good story is just messed up. We’re not a pariah or an exhibit or an attraction, we’re human beings and our only wish in this world is that we get treated as such. I know my story is unique and inspirational, I just don’t ever want that story to be the main focal point of everything I do in life. People with disabilities doing what everyone else does shouldn’t be such a shocker. I also need to get one other pink elephant out of the room. For the record, PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES OF TYPES DO HAVE SEX!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! No one has ever asked me the sex question but, I have friends who get that question all too often. To you it might be weird but to us, it’s just business as usual.
There really shouldn’t be anything strange about people with disabilities doing what everyone else does but there is. Our society has this terrible tendency of focusing all their attention on what they don’t understand. People also fear and feel uncomfortable around people and things that they don’t understand or can’t wrap their mind around. No matter how different people are, we’re all human at the end of the day. Once again, I hope I’ve been of some help deciphering this jungle I call the world.