Every now and then, you scroll past something in your newsfeed that sends you completely over the edge. It is one of the inevitable downfalls of social media. Generally, I just keep scrolling or hit the unfriend button if I feel the need. However, when it deals with racism, sexism, or as in this case, ableism, I just have to call it out.
Today it was a video of a woman using forearm crutches while dancing at a concert. (A Facebook friend had posted the video and immediately decided this woman couldn’t really be disabled.) I have chosen to redact the names because this really isn’t about a public shaming, it is about public awareness.
This was the video in question:
And the comments were sickening. Of course, she must be faking her disability. And naturally, there was the inevitable assumption that she gets a “check” from the government.
I couldn’t hold back and proceeded to launch into an angry rant in the comment section. As you can see below, my response was well-received.
The comments on the original video, posted by I-Octane, were just as bad as what I had seen in my newsfeed, if not worse, which is why I decided to write this instead of just addressing it on my friend’s post.
People don’t get it. The minute they see somebody park in an accessible parking spot and walk into a store, they feel compelled to leave a nasty note on their car accusing them of being a “faker.” It doesn’t matter that this person has Multiple Sclerosis because they can’t see it. Same with the person who has a service dog that alerts to epileptic seizures. If the general public can’t tell exactly what your disability is, you’ve gotta be a “faker” just trying to get that whopping $733 SSI check.
And heaven forbid a person with a disability or chronic illness does something, anything, to enjoy their life a little. The vultures can’t wait to swoop in and accuse a person of faking their disability if they do anything other than sit at home moaning about how their life isn’t worth living anymore.
Because after all, if you lost the use of your legs, you would just kill yourself, right? (That is one of the comments that sends me over the edge as well.) I’m gonna let you in on a secret — most likely, you wouldn’t. If you have any strength of character at all, even just a tiny bit, you will pick the pieces up and keep on living because living life on wheels really isn’t the worst thing that can happen to you.
The general public doesn’t understand disabilities at all, especially “invisible disabilities” that aren’t obvious just by looking at someone. Videos like this draw criticism, when they should draw respect. But, a person who can’t walk, can’t dance. Right? Wrong.
For perspective, I decided to introduce my friend (and now anyone reading this) to Dergin Tokmak. He contracted polio, also known as infantile paralysis when he was only a year old. According to one of his bios, “he lost control over his left leg and could only partially use his right leg. He learned, however, to move with his hands. And move he did…” Eventually, he was hired on as a dancer and acrobat with Cirque du Soleil.
The video above of Tokmak’s incredible moves is what convinced my Facebook friend that, maybe, just maybe, I had a valid point after all. Until this point, I think she truly couldn’t fathom that you could dance and still need crutches due to a real disability. Hopefully, I helped her to learn a valuable lesson about disabilities. And hopefully, what I have said here will help others learn that same lesson as well.
From the bottom of my heart, I really hope she does understand. I wish everyone did. To anyone who still fails to fully grasp the concept, I have a middle finger proudly raised just for you. And to the woman in the video, you rocked it girl!
Featured image via video screen capture