I Thought I Was Just Stupid…
Kari: Can you complete the phrase, “I thought I was just…” to fit your own experience of internalized ableism?
Meriah: I thought I was just stupid, for sure! I’m a little nervous about backlash with using the word “stupid”, but I think it’s more important to be honest, and it really does fit.
K: What aspects of your disability frustrate you the most?
M: Well, I have more than one disability…I think that for all of them, though, I get frustrated at times by their non-visibility. It feels like I’m faking it sometimes when I say that something is happening because I can’t hear, remember, or understand. I speak really clearly too, so most people have no idea how much pulling together of contextual information I do to “hear” or grasp what is happening. That’s frustrating sometimes.
K: What’s one thing you constantly find yourself explaining to others about your disability, maybe that you wish you didn’t have to?
M: To be honest, I don’t do much explaining these days! I live in a silo.
K: Are there any accommodations you are ever embarrassed to ask for?
M: I have to ask for captions all the time, and it can be torture.
I jump through all these hoops and then…they are not there. I can’t count the times I’ve wanted the floor to open up so I can jump in, because the entire meeting or class are all WAITING, because the organizer is trying to figure out how to enable the captions, because they didn’t get it ready ahead of time.
K: On the flip side, can you tell me about a time you have been accommodated or otherwise had your disability recognized and considered in a way that pleasantly surprised (or at least relieved) you?
M: Yes. I attended a training on Interplay, and when I asked for captions, they were like, “Of course. We have them enabled already.” The organizer also checked in with me to make sure it was all okay–it meant a lot to me.
K: What’s one aspect of your disability that you wish you had understood better, or at least earlier in your life?
M: My neurodiversity.
I wandered into the world of disability when I was in my late 20s, but it was only the deaf world. I gradually came to figure out that my TBI and CPTSD were extremely important for me in relating to and being in the world. I recently “scored” for being on the Autism spectrum, and I have to say, so much clicked into place with that. It kind of spun me around, because now, looking back at my life, everything becomes so clear to me: How and why things happened, how and why I was that way.
I really, REALLY wish I had known about this before. It would have made life so much easier for me.
K: What’s one thing you wish more disabled people understood about Deafness?
M: That it’s a spectrum: Deafness is a spectrum. We don’t all sign, either. On that note, I’d love for people to understand how isolating it can be to live on the deaf spectrum and to not be fluent with a signed language.
K: Where do you see more opportunities for the Deaf community and other disability communities to come together? What do you think is in the way of that the most right now?
Or, where do you think there is more room for different groups of disabled folks to distinguish themselves from each other so we can face ableism (especially lateral ableism) together?
M: That’s such a great question.
Areas of clear and easy intersection to me are in our rights and in resources available to us, which we need to thrive. I will also say that much of our histories are intersected, and much of the oppression and challenges that we respectively experience are comparable. I know I learn a lot from other disability communities, and I appreciate their perspectives.
Cool Cats: Voices from the Disability CommunityMeet cool and interesting people from across the disability spectrum in the fun series in which everyone is asked the same set of questions!
Kari Turner is a writer, editor, and disability activist from Los Angeles. Now also a new mom,
she and her husband are raising their family in California’s Coachella Valley. In her spare time, Kari blogs about parenting, disability, spirituality, and faith at http://writingthetao.blogspot.com