“I’m steel-toed boots in a ballet-slipper world.” – Richard Kabrey
Discrimination feels like getting in a hot tub and realizing how sun burned you really are. It feels like muddy boots on a freshly mopped floor. It feels like someone throwing up all over you. It feels like repeatedly stubbing your toe on that god damn coffee table corner.
Originally, I thought I would write about all of these times I have experienced discrimination or micro aggressions; about the time I was told I couldn’t study abroad because of my disability, about the time I was told I couldn’t serve a Mormon mission because I’m blind, about the few times I was turned away by uber drivers because of my seeing eye dog, about the time someone found out I was blind and proceeded to say, “but you’re so pretty,” about the time… I wrote out one of those stories in detail and proceeded to hold down the delete button until all was erased. Now the delete button is a symbol of my burden.
Pressing delete meant that I did not have to endure the why’s, but’s, justification or pity of those who read. Sometimes those are valid, warranted and invited. But not today. Today, I am tired.
I am tired of being polite when the bus driver so cleverly asks me if I can read in response to me asking what bus is this. I’m tired of those who think themselves unsung heroes, protecting their establishments from well behaved service dogs. I’m tired of being patient with those who masturbate to me, my family, and friends like we’re starring in inspiration porn.
Now before you discount me as a big, bitter, angry, and scary disabled person, please know that I welcome your respectful and genuine questions. I am the first one to crack a blind joke. I completely understand that sometimes people just don’t know any better. I readily admit that it is human nature to avoid, fear, and/or be curious about the unknown. I am well aware that I am not perfect and am guilty of discrimination and microaggression myself. It is also human nature to get tired and fed up and that is what I am today.
“… she makes me a better whatever the hell it is I am, a less stupid person, a more considerate monster.” – Richard Kabrey
A few years ago, I had a deaf uber driver. We were having a conversation about disability and he said something that still resonates within me today. He said, “we live in a hearing and seeing world, and if you can’t do either of those, sometimes you’re screwed.” While this statement holds some truth, there are laws in place to help unscrew people with disabilities, the main law being the Americans with Disabilities Act. This act makes it illegal to discriminate against those with disabilities in public life, specifically “prohibiting discrimination” in and offering “equal opportunity” to employment, education, movie theatres, hospitals, grocery stores, restaurants, recreational activities, and pretty much anything else you can think of. Today, I watched a 60 Minutes episode that shed a negative light on ADA. Its focus was on these “drive-by lawsuits” that are exploiting “innocently ignorant businesses” and taking advantage of people with disabilities in the name of ADA.
The episode highlighted businesses who are not ADA compliant or fully accessible to people with disabilities. These businesses are experiencing what is called a drive-by lawsuit which just means that they are getting sued for not being ADA compliant. 60 Minutes emphasized the lack of warning these businesses are experiencing and portrayed the situation as unfair.
ADA was passed 26 years ago, meaning businesses have had a 26-year warning. People have less patience with a slow loading internet page or a misbehaving child. And please do not be fooled. I encounter access issue after access issue, and frankly, I do not have the desire nor means to file lawsuit after lawsuit. The world is not out to get me, it has many more pressing matters.
The segment also mentioned that people are making millions from these lawsuits. One person that was interviewed mentioned that a lawyer conducting these lawsuits offered $100,000-$200,000 a year for signing off as a plaintiff. If anyone knows where I sign up for this, please let me know. I am only kidding… mostly… I have a lot of student loans… I am not a jerk… Ok, I am all the way kidding. Exploiting people is a dick move.
While I do not doubt the validity of this segment, it would be nice if 60 minutes had presented ADA as the multifaceted law that it is, as well as the multifaceted nature of the population it protects. I’m sure these lawsuits are more than an inconvenience to these businesses, just as their access issues are more than an inconvenience to me. Maybe 60 Minutes should focus on revealing the real issues instead of further marginalizing an already marginalized group.
Maybe discrimination feels like shelling out a bunch of money for a defense attorney…