It isn’t necessarily a given that a disabled person will become an advocate for the disability community at large. For some people that’s not the goal, and that’s completely fine. Everyone is entitled to follow whatever path they want in life and do what fulfils them most. But for most of us I think it’s safe to assume we don’t have the same choice when it comes to advocating for our own needs. In many cases we are our only and certainly our best advocates.
No one else knows the intimate details of our lives; no one understands our needs and our capabilities like we do. That’s what makes it so frustrating when non disabled people, often well-meaning, assume they understand ourselves better than we do. They gloss over our concerns or ignore our protests in favor of whatever end they’re working toward. They, wrongly, take our attempts to explain as us just being difficult or lazy. We’re seen as unreliable or irresponsible based simply on a person’s willful misunderstanding of our needs.
In reality this could not be further from the truth. We simply require our disability to be taken into consideration. We need people to realize that the logistics of certain things, transportation for instance, are different and many times more complicated for disabled people. It’s not that we’re being intentionally obtuse or difficult. We simply have accommodation needs that have to be met.
Bottom line, we need to be listened to. We need to know that our needs are going to be met and our directions followed. We need to feel secure in the knowledge that our disability is going to be accommodated. We deserve that much.
So next time a disabled person is explaining their needs to you, listen. Do as you’re being asked. Follow their directions. Most importantly rather than interjecting your own opinions, remember that disabled people are experts on our own experiences. So please, just take our word for it.