I have a love-hate relationship with my disability advocacy. By that I mean, as much as I love advocacy, discussing disability issues and teaching people about the disability community via my experience, I hate it because it never feels like enough. I’m not talking about the right issues. I’m not timely enough with my arguments. I’m not informing or informed on the problems that affect the majority of disabled people. The list continues.
But I keep at it. I keep talking and writing and sharing articles. I keep doing what I know, because sometimes it works. Sometimes I post things that start conversation. Sometimes I even have people tell me I’ve shown them an issue in a different light and now they understand it better. Man, that feeling is something else. Like a cool breeze on a hot day and a bolt of lightening striking all wrapped into one.
I’m comforted and exhilarated in the same second. It’s a confirmation and a validation. Because if I can do it once, I can do it again. Having conversations with people about things related to disability helps me too. I learn new things and my view of the issues grows and changes. Sometimes I end up with clarity about an opinion that I didn’t have before.
This actually happened recently. I had conversations with several friends about the term special needs and why I, and most disabled people, didn’t like it. Throughout the interactions I was reiterating that the needs of disabled people aren’t special, they just are. We have needs just like anyone else. I went on to explain the othering effects of terms like special needs and how that just served to further segregate disabled people.
It wasn’t until later, the middle of the night specifically, that a new thought struck me. The term special needs is applied almost strictly to children. Rarely, if ever, have I heard the term special needs adult. That got me thinking about the services and resources available to special needs children. They may be hard to access and navigate for some, but overall those resources exist in much greater number for children than adults.
It’s almost as if society is only interested in helping (a certain amount of) disabled children and only children. But where does that leave disabled adults who continue to need some of the same resources that were available to them as children? It sometimes seems like the world hasn’t realized that disabled children grow up and become disabled adults. Most of us don’t outgrow the conditions we had as children. Often they change and progress with age instead. Society cannot it seems conceive of the existence of the disabled adult (I wonder, does that make us akin to unicorns?).
It’s thoughts like the one with the unicorns that usually pull me from this rabbit hole of logic and conjecture. Then I realize that I have spent entirely too long thinking (sometimes writing) about this topic that’s popped into my head in the late night/early morning. Then I stop, like I’m about to do, and I look at where I’ve gotten and see if I’ve been making sense. Most of the time I can’t tell offhand. But this time I actually did write it down, so you can read it and tell me whether I’ve made sense, right?