Confessions of an MS Ableist: Change Begins With Me
Life is composed of little awakenings. These epiphanies broaden our horizons. Each invites us to become better versions of ourselves. And while not always welcome, most are necessary for growth.
I recently flew across the country to the corporate office of BioNews, the company I work for that publishes MS News Today. After a 14-month hiatus, it felt good to be back in the air. In preparation for my trip, I requested a wheelchair for my connection there and back. I double-checked this request before takeoff.
I disembarked the plane to no wheelchair. My legs were numb, and I tripped on the jetway. Embarrassed, I righted myself and made my way to the gate agent. After perusing my ticket, the gate agent said my connection was not that far.
I cringe each time I replay this comment. I had not asked them to quantify the distance. I requested help and should have received assistance. But when challenged, I allowed myself to be intimidated. Instead of stating my need for a wheelchair, I acquiesced.
I was disappointed in myself far more than the airline. While they dropped the ball, I kicked it away. I thought about my disability and others who face similar situations. Frustration turned to anger, and anger to resolve. The truth left me disquieted. And at that moment, I vowed to do better.
It was one of my awakenings.
Before this trip, I would have never described myself as an ableist. I was wrong.
According to Stop Ableism, ableism is the “practices and dominant attitudes in society that devalue and limit the potential of persons with disabilities. A set of practices and beliefs that assign inferior value (worth) to people who have developmental, emotional, physical or psychiatric disabilities.”
Ableism is any prejudice toward the disabled. Ableism often goes unchallenged. Internalized ableism is when disabled people view themselves as less than able-bodied people. I displayed internalized ableism when I marginalized my own needs. I felt ashamed until I confided in a dear friend and colleague. We spoke, exposed, cried, prayed, laughed, and hugged. Our shared desire to do better left me inspired.
Disabled people experience a different world. Inclusion will evade us until this changes. While I cannot change the world with my view, I can certainly change mine. And that is a good start.
Note: Multiple Sclerosis News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Multiple Sclerosis News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to multiple sclerosis.