In my Mission 2011 post last week, I asserted that the key to fibro-friendly travel is:
"...learning to feel comfortable saying, "I am a person with disabilities and I require reasonable accommodations."Apparently that was a difficult thing to ask of you.
So today I want to write more about why I think it is important to feel comfortable saying the "d" word, especially if you are a person living with invisible illnesses, like cancer, fibromyalgia, Hepatitis C, type 2 diabetes and dysautonomia.
There have been a lot of brave and courageous people who came before us that lead a disability movement demanding civil rights for people that are "differently abled." Their goal was to obtain equal access and equal opportunities for inclusion into society.
While many of these pioneers lived with mobility impairments and used wheelchairs, they also recognized that the disability community was a heterogeneous group consisting of persons living with a variety of different challenges, from blindness and deafness, to mental illness and invisible illness. They recognized that disabled people were a minority, a minority that anyone could join at any time in their lifetime.
They stood together and asserted their civil rights to ask that barriers be removed so that they could participate in society to the best of their ability. If you look around today you can see many of the fruits of their efforts: ramped entrances to buildings, curb cuts, disabled parking spaces and seats at venues, sign language interpreters and reading materials available in Braille.
You can also see their legacy in important legislation here in the United States, like the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 and the Family Medical Leave Act of 1993.
While those of us with invisible illnesses don't look disabled on the outside, we need to have barriers removed so we can live our lives to the fullest too.
While we come up with many ways to describe our illnesses, like chronic pain, chronic fatigue, etc., nothing quite has the impact as saying we are disabled. It is that one little word that can literally open doors for us that a lot of other words we use cannot. That one little word gives us clear rights to the reasonable accommodations we need to remove barriers. Plus it helps others in our society expand their definition of who people with disabilities really are, thus creating the disability culture that was the secondary goal of the disability movement.
That said, let me clarify a few things about what being disabled means:
- Being disabled doesn't mean you need other people's charity or pity; it does mean you might need barriers removed so you can actively participate in society.
- Being disabled doesn't always mean you can't work; it does mean you might be entitled to some extra help to be able to or continue to work.
- Being disabled doesn't mean you have to put up with harassment; it does means that by law you cannot be discriminated against in activities like: work, housing, transportation, shopping and health care.
- Being disabled means that your spouse or significant other can take time off work when needed to assist you and not have to worry about losing their job in the process.
- Being disabled doesn't mean you always need help; in fact, as the result of laws and increased societal acceptance, it often means you can be independent and even offer help to others.
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