Self Advocacy For Disabled People

(Note: A lot of well-intentioned people will tell disabled people that the solution to their problems is some form of self-advocacy. Go to the Office of Students with Disabilities, and they’ll get you the accommodation you need! Go to your doctor, and they’ll get you the medication you need! Talk to your boss! On the face of it, this seems like good advice. But.) 

Have you considered going gluten free? My sister-in-law’s cousin’s daughter’s best friend’s pastor’s disability went away completely when he tried this One Weird Trick!

The reason why I disagree with the statement “self-advocacy is an important skill to learn, particularly for [people] with disabilities” is because it makes individuals responsible for an institutional problem.
And because it doesn’t work.
When you hit roadblock after roadblock
when you’re humiliated again and again
when you have to choose between your privacy and your ability to get an accommodation
when you have to choose between your mental health and your ability to get an accommodation
when you have to choose an adversarial relationship with the professor who is grading you, or your accommodation
when you tell people over and over that this thing they’re doing is hurting you, and they tell you you’re exaggerating
when you lose friendships for asking people to make accommodations
when you can barely sustain the friendships you have because of your accommodations
when your parents disapprove of your therapy/meds
when your family yells at you for taking care of yourself
when you have to choose between your job and getting an accommodation
when you have to choose between getting along with your boss and getting your accommodation
when you have to choose between having money and bringing suit against the people who discriminated against you

when people write nasty notes on your windshield for using the handicap permit to which you are entitled
when people are encouraged to film you so they can prove you don’t have the disability you say you do
when you’re forced to leave your school for disclosing your mental illness
when your school refuses to give you counseling because you aren’t mentally ill enough
when people accuse you of cheating for using accommodations

when doctors lie to you about the medications to which you are entitled
when doctors refuse to believe you have the symptoms you say you have
when nurses lie to you about your right to get your medical information
when you come back with a printed copy of the law saying you have a right to that information and they blow you off
when you need time, money, and energy to pursue your rights (none of which you have) 
when disclosing your disability to get an accommodation means you will be barred from certain jobs
when disclosing your disability to get medication means you will ostracized from your community 
when people refuse to believe your disability even exists
when your therapist gaslights you
when people yell at you, laugh at you, stare at you, for doing the things that help you 
when you’re constantly told that you’re expecting “too much” for wanting things you love to be accessible
when you’re constantly told that you’re expecting “too much” for wanting things you NEED to be accessible 
when disclosing your disability means everyone will immediately tell you how to “fix” it 
(and trust me, you’ve heard it all before) 
when disclosing your disability means people you respect will look at you like you’ve grown a third head

And you decide that this time, you’re not going to enter the hellpit that is “self advocacy” in a deeply ableist world
Then people will tell you it’s your fault for not speaking up.

(nb: this list comes nowhere close to cataloguing all the ways people have been burned when they’ve tried to access accommodations) 


One Comment on “Self Advocacy For Disabled People”

  1. Margo says:

    I especially love it when people bring up ADA. Haha. Laws like that are only helpful in situations where employers are careless enough to make it clear that they’re firing/refusing to hire you because of disability. So instead they say you’re “not the right fit for the company.” Not the right fit, my ass.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s