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What if we treated physical disabilities like mental health problems? Well, we do.

I see a common sentiment echoed in the communities who advocate for better mental health access, understanding, and decreasing of stigma against people with mental health issues: “What if we treated physical disabilities/ailments the way we treat mental health?” For example, this comic. Or this comic. Or this other comic. I’ve seen dozens more, but you get the picture.

I absolutely agree that there is a stigma against people with mental health issues. There is also a huge lack of access to mental health treatments. Take, for example, this quote from the story of the Virginia State Senator was stabbed by his son, who then committed suicide:

The Richmond Times-Dispatch reported Tuesday that he had been given a mental health evaluation under an emergency custody order Monday but was released because no psychiatric bed could be located across a wide area of western Virginia, Dennis Cropper, executive director of the Rockbridge Area Community Services Board, told the newspaper.

Of course, then with stories like this, people start to believe that people with mental health issues are more likely to be violent, when in truth, people with mental health issues are more likely to be victims of violence than perpetrators, and most people who commit violent acts against others do not have mental health issues.

My point is, there definitely are problems with how we (as a society) deal with mental health issues. I am not contesting that in any way.

What I am saying is that the idea that we treat people with physical ailments with sympathy and courtesy all the time is completely false. Yes, some people say mental illness is just “in your head” or not real. They say that about some physical ailments as well. As a person with a physical disability, I am routinely told that I just need to “suck it up” or “work through it,” sometimes even by medical professionals (though usually not in those exact words). For example, in the Robot Hugs comic, the second panel says “You just need to change your frame of mind. Then you’ll feel better.” I know I’m not alone when I say people have said that to me about my disease (if you’ve had a similar experience, please share it in the comments). Not to mention how often people say things like, “Oh, if I had X disability, I’d kill myself!” Wow, thanks!

Rules and laws that were created to protect people with disabilities are routinely violated for people with physical ailments again and again by the TSA. A news station in Washington, D.C. did some investigating into how often people with visible physical disabilities (e.g., blind people with service dogs, people in wheelchairs) are ignored by cab drivers or charged extra when it is illegal to do so (the not-so-shocking results? It happens a lot.). The government also discriminates against people with physical disabilities during disaster evacuation.

Not to mention, the laws that are in place to protect and help disabled people often have loopholes that allow employers and organizations to discriminate against people. For example, The Americans with Disabilities Act only applies to workplaces with 15 or more employees— meaning it is completely legal for an employer to openly discriminate against or terminate an employee with a disability if they have 14 or fewer employees. The Family Medical Leave Act only applies to workplaces with 50 or more employees. So if you’re a person with a disability and you want to work for a small, local business or a small non profit– well, good luck. The reasoning behind this is that it “protects” small business, which quite frankly, is a load of bullshit. We don’t need to protect businesses, we need to protect people. To say that the profits of a business come before the rights of a disabled person is simply saying that disabled people are not as important as money.

By suggesting that we treat people with physical ailments better than we treat people with mental ones, it sets up a competition. We shouldn’t treat people with mental illnesses the way we treat people with physical ones. We should strive to treat both groups well– better than we treat either group currently.

Featured image from Robot Hugs

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Sarah

Sarah is a feminist, atheist vegan with Crohn’s Disease, and she won’t shut up about any of those things. You really need to follow her on Twitter (and probably Google+, just to be safe).

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      1. In Australia, you get tested on your work flow. To explain, if the standard is to produce 100 widgets per hour, and the disabled person can only produce 10, then that figure is put into a rather complex formula and comes up with a percentage of the minimum wage you can pay the disabled person. The upshot of this is to allow a business to stay in business by being able to afford another 10 disabled workers to bring production up to 100 widgets per hour. This is applied to people on the Dissability support pension. It allows the disabled to have meaningful work and at the same time gives employers incentive to hire disabled people. True you might be working fore peanuts but you are out and about in the community, not stuck at home or institution.

          1. Actually, the same system is used in the public sector as well. We have a bunch of disabled folks making up buffers and such. I think it’s probably good for them to have the dignity of work and an independent income, just as it is for the rest of us. I myself have a love hate relationship with my job, but there is no denying the camaraderie that exists with my workmates, we talk and laugh and share problems in both good times and bad and I will miss them when I quit one day soon – only a little longer – soon now!

          2. In many ways: belonging to a team, making friends, being able to talk to new people, a sense of purpose, a sense of achievement. The actual work is kind of secondary. I should point out that the work place I am describing is a “sheltered workshop” i.e. highly supervised. There are a rage of mental disabilities like Autism, Downs Syndrome and similar and they are allowed to work at their own pace (hence the low pay). I think if you ask anyone with a disability be it physical or mental they really just want to be treated like every one else, and this type of employment achieves that for people unable to navigate ‘real employment’. Again in Australia if you are more capable you can find employment in a regular business like a supermarket or hardware giant (again at lower pay).

            I kind of feel your point about capitalists, but in this less than perfect world, exchanging low pay for employment (while still receiving disability pension) is a good deal.

            P.S. there is also secondary benefit of people with any handicap being visible in public, in that the rest of us get used to seeing them about at the shops and on public transport, its a kind of desensitisation.

        1. There’s an entire world of volunteer work and community service.
          I don’t see the dignity in using a formula to decide what fraction of a person I’m worth.
          “For your own good”? Work for peanuts or be institutionalized or a shut in?
          Are those the only possibilities you see for disabled people?
          I think it’s insulting.

          1. The formula has nothing to do with a persons worth, only their productivity in a specific job. The dignity is in having a meaningful and fiscally sustainable job and being a part of society.
            Of course they are not the only possibilities for the disabled, this is for the disabled that require supervision.

        2. A person with a disability doesn’t have a lower cost of living just because they happen to make widgets at a slower pace than someone else. So that is something to think about. Why should someone be paid an amount of money that no one could possibly use to support themselves just because they have a disability?

          When you go to work, do you consider being “out and about” in the community part of your compensation for the work you do? Would you take less money for the privilege of doing shit work so long as it was framed as meaningful?

          1. I think you and Punch both missed the point that the salary is IN ADDITION to the disability pension and that both the pension and the salary that you call peanuts is a great deal more generous than anything comparable available in the US.

            All this is completely voluntary, nobody is forced to work if they feel demeaned. I agree totally about the value of voluntary work. In my view the size of a salary has rarely ever been a good reflection of the worth of a human being.

            That said, the National Disability Insurance Scheme was supposed to improve the amount of money available nationally for disabled folks. I fear that NDIS will be an early target for austerity by the new conservative regime.

          2. Naw, I caught that just fine. My point stands that it is considered fine and dandy to pay mentally disabled persons a pittance for work which, if done by a CAB or physically disabled person, would be worth at least minimum wage.

          3. Yeah, I got it too.
            Does a panel of people with disabilities decide the pay scale?
            Are people with disabilities consulted with every new hire? Are people with disabilities part of management at these places of employment?
            You know the saying, “Nothing about us without us”?

            I can’t read this as anything but unfair and substandard wages for people who are already disadvantaged.
            And then, to act like it’s a favor! Boy, don’t do me any favors if that’s how you do it.

          4. Those are all good points. I agree that those with mental disability may be treated worse than physical.
            Regarding the overalll framework and representation in particular, there is some info here which suggests the answer could be a qualified “yes”:
            http://www.dss.gov.au/our-responsibilities/disability-and-carers/program-services/for-people-with-disability/australian-disability-enterprises

            http://www.dss.gov.au/our-responsibilities/disability-and-carers/program-services/consultation-and-advocacy/national-disability-strategy-implementation-reference-group-ndsirg

          5. The supported workshops supplement their disability pension, it is not meant to be their only form of income, the jobs primary purpose is to give them a meaningful life where they can get out in the community.

            The work they do is not shit by any standard. It is largely formulated on “the human production line” and jobs cover all aspects of packaging (as an example), the environment is clean, safe and friendly. You work at your own pace. You still get paid if the work runs out. If your late for work no one cares.

          6. 4tune8chance, there is a problem with the assumption that just because a human being gets disability benefits and has flexible work conditions, it’s okay to pay them as little as you can get away with. Think of it like this: if I got food stamps, would it be okay for my employer to pay me a few dollars an hour less than my co workers, just because the government was supposedly making up the difference? If no, then why do I deserve to have more rights than someone with a disability?

          7. onamission5 wrote on December 18, 2013, 1:17 pm
            “4tune8chance, there is a problem with the assumption that just because a human being gets disability benefits and has flexible work conditions, it’s okay to pay them as little as you can get away with. Think of it like this: if I got food stamps, would it be okay for my employer to pay me a few dollars an hour less than my co workers, just because the government was supposedly making up the difference? If no, then why do I deserve to have more rights than someone with a disability?”

            On the contrary the system is working very well and the method for determining how much production any given person is capable of, is independently assessed (every two years if memory serves). The employer does not make the assessment, the government does. That said, this system allows businesses to employ people who would never be able to compete on a level playing field. The situation you describe of equal pay will automatically disqualify the handicapped because they cannot compete on equal terms.

            Its not about what ‘you deserve’, fate has already dealt you a bad hand, nobody ‘deserves’ that or anything like it. Its a pragmatic solution in a capitalistic driven economy.

  1. Things I’ve heard:
    “You don’t your inhaler. You need willpower!”
    “I think you’re using this asthma thing as an excuse.”
    “You need to push through it!”
    “Tough it out a bit! Asthma won’t kill you!”
    “Asthma is only as bad as you think it is.”
    “If scents bug you so much, you shouldn’t go outside.”
    “If scents bug you so much, just stay home.”

    Damn right we don’t treat people with physical disabilities with compassion and consideration at all times.

  2. In my experience, “invisible” physical disability gets treated exactly the same as mental disability, and probably for exactly the same reason: people think you’re making shit up. OTOH people with visible disabilities get treated like “freaks” with disability-cooties. Basically, no matter what, people with disabilities get treated like shit.

  3. Wait, what? None of those comics depict “invisible” disabilities like fibromyalgia. This whole thing reads like a giant strawman written for the purpose pitting disabled people against each other.

    People treat fibromyalgia like depression because they’re both things you can’t see. Rather than saying that these people are making “false” statements maybe you should be saying the comics are depicting your situation, too. pointing out that there’s a hierarchy among the disability community* isn’t saying that the people at the top of the hierarchy are actually well of, geeze.

    the fact is that “physical” issues have long been prioritized above “mental ones” and it has been a struggle to get to the point where mental health are taken somewhat seriously, even after “physical” issues began to be taken more seriously. if you don’t know that history you should learn it before writing things like this post. denying this stuff would just be using the scraps of privilege that have been thrown to you for silencing people who are politically a bit worse off than you.

    I’m writing this with much love and respect intended but things like this don’t help us.

    *something like “wheel chair users > visible physical disabilities > deaf and blind people > invisible disabilities > mental health problems > developmental disabilities”

    1. huh. it’s almost as if you didn’t read the comments before commenting yourself, since my comment pointing out how this hierarchy you imagine is not actually A Thing is right above yours. Different kinds of disabilities are treated like shit differently, but there’s no non-biased way in which that difference could be quantified as “more” or “less” bad treatment in almost all cases.

      1. Of course I read it, but stating that it refutes my comment doesn’t make it so. The hierarchy is definitely “a thing”. To see it all you need to do is look at disability rights history or even to take a single moment to look at how people with intellectual disability are still treated today.

        1. Okay, sure, but the point is that each different disability group has their own difficulties that maybe the other groups don’t have. That doesn’t make one necessarily “better” than the other (It’s basically, would you rather be stared at & not able to access certain forms of public transit due to a wheelchair, or would you rather have some people question whether your disability is ‘legitimate?’ Neither sounds great to me.). I’m saying we need to treat all people with disabilities better, not just one certain subgroup.

          1. The issue I have with this post is that you link people describing mental health problems relative to things that are visibly obvious- like having a bleeding limb with a hand cut off- and then set up an opposition to “physical” versus “mental” that wasn’t even present in the things you were writing about. Then you say “What I am saying is that the idea that we treat people with physical ailments with sympathy and courtesy all the time is completely false.” But no one is saying that! I mean, someone probably is because people will say anything, but none of the examples you’ve given are of people saying that, even though you’re responding to them like those people were.

            It is “better” to have one’s problems respected and taken seriously. Of course no group of disabled people is to the point of being respected, but our society- our western, industrialized, urbanizing society- as a whole values the mind over the body. It says “Your mind is what you are.” Mental work is seen as more respectable and earns higher financial rewards than physical work. When the ADA was first passed it was judged to not apply to mental health problems, even though the people responsible for it had explicitly said otherwise. People with various visible physical problems will still often say things like “At least our minds are fine,” implying that that’s what keeps them valuable, and the universal symbol of access is literally a guy in a wheelchair. That hierarchy exists.

            Your post is not a call to unity, not a call to take all issues seriously. It’s a call to silence. It’s really not all that different from the White, middle class feminists who have insisted that people from other backgrounds get on board with them because what really matters is that all women experience sexism. One could just easily say “By suggesting that we treat women from middle class backgrounds better than we treat women from poorer ones, it sets up a competition.” Of course we both know it doesn’t, but it doesn’t stop the idea from existing and propagating and thriving.

            It’s the same set of tendencies here, played out in a much smaller community. Recognizing hierarchy means unity and motion, not its prevention. And when you finally run into someone who legitimately doesn’t respect physical disability or romanticizes certain issues above others then I’ll have your your back because I know that crap isn’t right, either.

          2. “It’s really not all that different from the White, middle class feminists who have insisted that people from other backgrounds get on board with them because what really matters is that all women experience sexism. ”

            nope. if we want to make analogies, what sarah has actually done is analogous to calling out the obnoxious use of “no one would ever say that about racism, but it’s ok to say about sexism” and variants thereof; oppressions are not directly comparable like that. You can’t say that gays are more oppressed than black people because interracial marriage has been legal for decades but gay marriage still isn’t. It doesn’t work that way; it doesn’t work that way between oppression because of different types of disability, either.

        2. (For some reason it’s not letting me reply to your latest comment, so I’m hitting reply to this one, but addressing what you said in your latest comment. Sorry about that.)

          “But no one is saying that!”
          Well, except for lots of people are saying that. In the Robot Hugs comic, it shows someone with the flu & someone else with food poisoning, with someone saying “try harder” to both of them. As someone with an intestinal disease, this has happened to me a lot. “Can’t you just push through it?” “I’ve thrown up a lot too, but it’s no excuse to miss work.” etc. It’s not fair to act like these things are never said when they frequently are.

          “It is “better” to have one’s problems respected and taken seriously. Of course no group of disabled people is to the point of being respected, but our society- our western, industrialized, urbanizing society- as a whole values the mind over the body.”
          That’s my point– that no group of disabled people is to the point of being respected. In the examples you gave, yes, mind is valued over body. But not in all instances. People with physical disabilities are still barred from doing many things in our society that should be available to all (public transit is the example I’ve been using).

          “…and the universal symbol of access is literally a guy in a wheelchair.”
          How would you display a symbol depicting mental illness?

          “Your post is not a call to unity, not a call to take all issues seriously. It’s a call to silence. It’s really not all that different from the White, middle class feminists who have insisted that people from other backgrounds get on board with them because what really matters is that all women experience sexism.”
          How is it a call to silence? I’m asking that we promote mental health issues without throwing people with physical disabilities under the bus. Many people I know with both physical & mental disabilities (myself included) often feel like there’s animosity from people with mental illnesses who believe that physical disabilities are treated better, when that’s often not our experience.

          As for the white, middle class feminists thing, feminists of color are not upset because they believe white feminists don’t suffer from sexism–they’re usually upset because white feminists are the ones harming/perpetuating the causes that women of color are fighting for (for example, Lily Allen’s song/video “Hard Out Here (for a Bitch)” would have been fine if she hadn’t used women of color as props & said “don’t need to shake my ass for you cause I’ve got a brain.”). Yes, there are definitely times when people with physical disabilities say problematic things like “at least my mind is free,” and that does need to be addressed. I don’t think your analogy is accurate.

          “And when you finally run into someone who legitimately doesn’t respect physical disability or romanticizes certain issues above others then I’ll have your your back because I know that crap isn’t right, either.”
          “Finally run into?” You mean every day of my life & the examples I gave in the article?

  4. In my experience the biggest divide between the mentally disabled and physically disabled is in the ability to make your position known and understood. In the case of the mentally disabled that job will fall on a parent or carer and even then, you may be trying to second guess them. As for treating one affliction better than another, I can’t say I have noticed it, sure they are treated differently, but I don’t see how you can equate the two very different different type of affliction.

      1. Well yes, if they have difficulty expressing themselves, then those who care for them, have to ‘speak on their behalf’, for all sorts of things from what would you like to eat, what shall we do now, what cloths to put on, what sort of things is the person able to do, as a few simple examples.

        Perhaps you have misunderstood the point I was making, if so does this clarify?

        1. especially in the context of this conversation, which is NOT just about developmental disability (which is what I suspect you meant), but about mental disorders in general.
          Though of course developmental disabilities don’t inherently necessitate caregivers that need to speak FOR the person, either.

          1. True I am more familiar with disabilities like Autism. My comment about needing a spokes person was of course a generalisation between physical and mental handicaps (I know plenty of people with mental handicaps who can speak up for themselves), each individual resides on a bell curve of abilities. The same could afflict a physical disability if one were paralysed and it affected communication.

          2. plenty of autistic people don’t need anyone to speak FOR them, either. sometimes even those considered severely affected are often able to speak for themselves. *coughamysequenziacough*

            basically it bugged me like hell that you just drew that connection from mental disability to “cannot speak for themselves” so blithely and blatantly. it’s a very very bad idea. it perpetuates very very bad ideas. don’t do that.

          3. What Jadehawk said. I’m autistic. I don’t need anybody else to speak for me. Least of all someone who assumes that I need someone to speak for me rather than assuming I’ll be capable of speaking for myself with the approrpiate accommodations.

            I’m capable of verbal speech, but autistics who aren’t are still able to speak for themselves: See Carly Fleischmann, Amanda Bags, and Ido Kedar as just three examples.

            People like you are the last people I’d want “working with” or “for” me. Because you’re exactly the type I wrote a whole blog post about. “For my own good,” isn’t. It’s for your convenience and comfort. Stop assuming you know more than PWD what’s best for us.

  5. I get migraine headaches and have PCOS, both of which are connected to my Cushings. I also am a private contractor in an at will state. As such I live without insurance under the constant threat I may be too ill to work for a long enough period of time that I won’t be able to afford my minimal treatments. There are surgeries, exploratory, that could fix most of my problems but because I not insured no one wants to perform them.
    “Why don’t you just work at a large company so you can be insured long enough to get care?”
    Because employers just looooove that and give GREAT recommendations. Because migraine headaches and loud offices go together well. Because showing up sick at a crowded office is way less note worthy then working sick from my house.
    “Anyone can get insurance if they have money.”
    Because riders aren’t a thing.
    “People with pre existing conditions just wait till they get sick to look for insurance. Well I don’t mean you of course you work hard.”
    Even if that were true- So. The. Fuck. What.
    “I get headaches too but I guess I have a higher pain tolerance.”
    Shut up.
    “You should try gluten free diets with vitamin shots and eat bee pollen and wear real cotton and live in the mountains because my second cousins best friend had a cat with a bad eye and it cleared right up when they changed her diet.”

    1. Ugh, I’m so sorry. :( I get migraines from my Crohn’s too & it’s awful. It’s astounding how many people say the “I get headaches too but I guess I have a higher pain tolerance” thing when you tell them about migraines.

      I get the gluten free thing a lot too. Major eyeroll.

    2. Nowhere did I say all Autistic people (or any mental disability) need someone to speak on their behalf. As chemgeek should be fully aware the Autistic spectrum is very wide, and a decent percentage do require a little to considerable assistance with many aspects of life. The purpose of such assistance is to give the best quality of life to those least able to provide it for themselves.

      1. the post “Nowhere did I say all Autistic people (or any mental disability) need someone to speak on their behalf. As chemgeek should be fully aware the Autistic spectrum is very wide, and a decent percentage do require a little to considerable assistance with many aspects of life. The purpose of such assistance is to give the best quality of life to those least able to provide it for themselves”

        was intended as a reply to jade hawk and chemgeek. for some reason it has not linked to either post.

      2. Assumptions and subtext are things that exist. Your posts have been filled with the assumption that people with developmental and intellectual disabilities are incapable of doing things for themselves. They have been filled with the subtext that people like me are less than and need to be taken care of, like children. And that, like children, we deserve no rights to self-determination and no voice in our own lives. Hell, it took Jadehawk and myself snarking at you for you to even admit that we’re capable of speaking for ourselves at all, and even then, you didn’t stop to think that maybe this sort of communication is less about speech and more about accommodation. That attitude is a problem when it’s applied to Deaf people, and it’s a problem when applied to people with developmental and intellectual disabilities.

        As for assistance: Yes. I, for example, need assistance for filling out bureaucratese forms like taxes. Bureaucratese confuses the crap out of me because none of it is laid out in a logical or sensible manner and trying to make sense of it takes forever and usually induces a meltdown, so I get help. Here’s the thing, though: I am the one who chooses which things I get help for. Nobody else steps in and says they’ll coach me through cleaning my house “for my own good” or does my taxes for me “for my own good” or makes decisions about my life and my career and my living space for me. I do that. As I should. And far, far more Autistic adults are capable of making those decisions for themselves than not, even those who allistics consider poster kids for autistic tragedy.

        The attitude is the key, here. It’s the difference between sending a child to bed because they’re tired even though they want to stay up and suggesting to a friend who’s falling asleep at your party that they might want to make use of a guest bed or cot. Get the difference? How about this one: It’s the difference between insisting that you carry something heavy for an asthmatic over their protests that they’re doing fine today and no, heavy lifting doesn’t set off their asthma and offering to carry it if they’re having a hard time. In both cases, the first assumes the other person is incapable due to immaturity or lack of mental development to assess their own needs and desires in a responsible way. The second assumes the other person is capable of making their own decisions, even if you wouldn’t necessarily agree with them.

        Your assumption in all of your posts is that developmentally disabled people are as small children: Incapable of making our own decisions, incapable of adequate communication, and incapable of running our own lives, with adequate accommodations. It’s textbook ingrained ableism. Stop thinking about this stuff as taking care of us for our own good and start thinking about it as giving the necessary accommodations to let us take care of ourselves.

        1. chemgeek> “Assumptions and subtext are things that exist. Your posts have been filled with the assumption that people with developmental and intellectual disabilities are incapable of doing things for themselves. They have been filled with the subtext that people like me are less than and need to be taken care of, like children.”

          What utter nonsense, I have clarified my position at every opportunity where there has been some misunderstanding. If your going accuse me of a position that I do not hold then quote the offending text and I will attempt to clarify it.

          chemgeek> “And that, like children, we deserve no rights to self-determination and no voice in our own lives. Hell, it took Jadehawk and myself snarking at you for you to even admit that we’re capable of speaking for ourselves at all, and even then, you didn’t stop to think that maybe this sort of communication is less about speech and more about accommodation. That attitude is a problem when it’s applied to Deaf people, and it’s a problem when applied to people with developmental and intellectual disabilities.”

          “Like children!” “no rights” what on earth are you reading, because it does not resemble anything at all that I wrote. If you have an issue with what I wrote then it is best if you quote the text back at me and we can dispel, I hope, any misconceptions.

          chemgeek> “As for assistance: Yes. I, for example, need assistance for filling out bureaucratese forms like taxes. Bureaucratese confuses the crap out of me because none of it is laid out in a logical or sensible manner and trying to make sense of it takes forever and usually induces a meltdown, so I get help. Here’s the thing, though: I am the one who chooses which things I get help for. Nobody else steps in and says they’ll coach me through cleaning my house “for my own good” or does my taxes for me “for my own good” or makes decisions about my life and my career and my living space for me. I do that. As I should. And far, far more Autistic adults are capable of making those decisions for themselves than not, even those who allistics consider poster kids for autistic tragedy.”

          Did you not read the post I made about Autism being a very varied spectrum? No where in any correspondence did I make any references to you personally. I used Autism as an example it is only one of many disorders that affect mental abilities (to lesser or greater amounts), and I also acknowledge that many people with such disorders are able to speak for themselves. Please, I urge you again to post any text I have written that you find offensive and I will clarify my position for you.

          chemgeek> “The attitude is the key, here. It’s the difference between sending a child to bed because they’re tired even though they want to stay up and suggesting to a friend who’s falling asleep at your party that they might want to make use of a guest bed or cot. Get the difference?

          You are projecting a position on me that I do not hold.

          chemgeek> “How about this one: It’s the difference between insisting that you carry something heavy for an asthmatic over their protests that they’re doing fine today and no, heavy lifting doesn’t set off their asthma and offering to carry it if they’re having a hard time. In both cases, the first assumes the other person is incapable due to immaturity or lack of mental development to assess their own needs and desires in a responsible way. The second assumes the other person is capable of making their own decisions, even if you wouldn’t necessarily agree with them.”

          Again you are projecting a position that I do not hold.

          chemgeek> “Your assumption in all of your posts is that developmentally disabled people are as small children: Incapable of making our own decisions, incapable of adequate communication, and incapable of running our own lives, with adequate accommodations. It’s textbook ingrained ableism. Stop thinking about this stuff as taking care of us for our own good and start thinking about it as giving the necessary accommodations to let us take care of ourselves.”

          No you are completely wrong, and your assuming way way to much. Just stick to what I have written, re-post the text you feel is offensive and I promise I will do my utmost to clarify any misunderstanding.

          1. I am also reading your position as “Being paid a pittance is better than the lives they would have otherwise.”
            A job paying substandard wages is not better than community service or volunteer work – and as for dignity, well you have it exactly backwards.
            This is personal. I’m disabled, I can’t work or live completely independently. My family supports me, I live with a long term partner and our children and other family members. I have friends and I do meaningful (to me) work. I don’t understand why you think that a token wage would make my life better or more dignified or more useful to myself or my community. You seem convinced that you’re doing us a favor. The people here, actual people with disabilities, are disagreeing with you. We’re telling you that this practice is unfair, insulting, and reinforces our position as second class citizens. We’re telling you that you’re wrong, and I don’t think we’re misunderstanding your position.

          2. look, 4tune8chance, I’ll make this very simple. When you make a statement like “In the case of the mentally disabled that job will fall on a parent or carer”, what you communicating is a generality; that this the overall pattern of things, in this case specifically that it is generally true that mentally disabled people need a parent or caretaker to speak for them.

            I don’t care in the slightest whether that’s what you meant to say, because that’s what you DID say. And while I hope it’s not what you believe, you still might wanna do some introspection why such a general and misleading statement came out of your brain.

          3. reply to punchdrunk dated 19 dec > (could not figure out how to link directly)

            punchdrunk> I am also reading your position as “Being paid a pittance is better than the lives they would have otherwise.”

            Then you are misunderstanding the purpose. The ‘pittance’ is payed so that the business can stay viable. As I have tried explain this system is intended to assist those unable to compete in the regular work force due to a disability. The benefits gained for these individuals far outweighs anything else; i.e. friendly and safe environment, doing a real job in the real world, they make a friends, they get respect.?

            punchdrunk> A job paying substandard wages is not better than community service or volunteer work – and as for dignity, well you have it exactly backwards.

            horses for courses, volunteer work is still an option, the sheltered workshops are not mandatory.

            ?punchdrunk> This is personal. I’m disabled, I can’t work or live completely independently. My family supports me, I live with a long term partner and our children and other family members. I have friends and I do meaningful (to me) work. I don’t understand why you think that a token wage would make my life better or more dignified or more useful to myself or my community.

            Where did I ever make this a personal issue relevant to your specific situation? I have been describing a situation that is working well in Australia.

            punchdrunk> You seem convinced that you’re doing us a favor. The people here, actual people with disabilities, are disagreeing with you. We’re telling you that this practice is unfair, insulting, and reinforces our position as second class citizens. We’re telling you that you’re wrong, and I don’t think we’re misunderstanding your position.

            First I am not doing anything other than explaining a system that is working well in Australia. How is it unfair to give people purpose, dignity, enjoyment, and real employment to those less able to compete in the marketplace? You are not a second class citizen.

          4. reply to jadehawk 19 dec.

            Jadehawk > Look, 4tune8chance, I’ll make this very simple. When you make a statement like “In the case of the mentally disabled that job will fall on a parent or carer”, what you communicating is a generality; that this the overall pattern of things, in this case specifically that it is generally true that mentally disabled people need a parent or caretaker to speak for them.

            I have been over this, and clarified my position – reposts: “Well yes, if they have difficulty expressing themselves…….” and “I understand, the range of disability varies greatly, and as you rightly point out not all need a carer”, and “My comment about needing a spokes person was of course a generalisation between physical and mental handicaps (I know plenty of people with mental handicaps who can speak up for themselves)”.

            jadehawk> I don’t care in the slightest whether that’s what you meant to say, because that’s what you DID say.

            So am I to be condemned because of a poorly written sentence, despite the immediate clarifications?

            Jadehawk> And while I hope it’s not what you believe, you still might wanna do some introspection why such a general and misleading statement came out of your brain.

            But I have acknowledged that it could be written better, I have clarified my position, several times now.

          5. Consider the possibility that Jadehawk and I understand you just fine, and that your posts are confirming our initial impression of you. Consider the possibility that you’re behaving like an ableist jackass. Your insistence that I as an autistic person am “misunderstanding” the bigotry in your phrasing is bigoted in itself, for example. I can’t possibly be recognizing implicit ableism, I’m autistic and therefore incapable of catching subtext and nonverbal cues, amirite? */sarcasm*

            Your gaslighting of me and my experiences by insisting that I’m “completely wrong” about what’s going on here is not appreciated.

            I have far more experience at detecting ableism than you do. I live as a person disabled with several invisible disabilities, including chronic illness, a neurological GI issue, and of course my autism. I experience ableist bigotry daily. Accept that my 26 years of experience in encountering such bigotry makes me much better at recognizing it than a person who, from all available information to me, is currently-able with respect to my axes of disability, just like 26 years of being a woman has left me better-equipped to recognize sexism than a man, or that 26 years of being a white person has left me less-equipped to recognize racial prejudice than a PoC. Accept that my 26 years of living with these disabilities makes me better able to recognize ableism than a person who assumes that everyone with mental disabilities are unable to speak for themselves, ever, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. And who, when called on that, steps back to, “Okay, maybe not all mental disabilities. Maybe just developmental disabilities.” And when called on that steps back to maybe just severe developmental disabilities. And when called on that insists that those doing the calling out are mistaken about reality.

            It is not my job to give you ableism 101. However, I’m feeling charitable today. How about this: “The purpose of such assistance is to give the best quality of life to those least able to provide it for themselves” – assumes people with DDs are incapable of taking care of themselves. Assumes that we’re like children and need to be taken care of. The purpose of living assistance isn’t to take care of people with DDs, it’s to enable us to take care of our own lives. Big difference in attitude there. The first presumes incompetence, what’ you’re doing, while the second presumes competence.

            Go read about presuming competence and the least-dangerous assumption. It’s important. Right now, you’re presuming incompetence of those with disabilities and making some very dangerous assumptions.

          6. chemgeek December 20, 2013, 8:03 am> Consider the possibility that Jadehawk and I understand you just fine, and that your posts are confirming our initial impression of you. Consider the possibility that you’re behaving like an ableist jackass. Your insistence that I as an autistic person am “misunderstanding” the bigotry in your phrasing is bigoted in itself, for example. I can’t possibly be recognizing implicit ableism, I’m autistic and therefore incapable of catching subtext and nonverbal cues, amirite? */sarcasm*

            I have not made a personal attack on you nor Jadehawk. If you believe I have posted bigotry then I apologise, it is not my intent. I am trying to get to the bottom of this, and humbly request that you post what you believe to be offensive so that can, at the very least, explain things better.
            I thought that my clarifications and acknowledgements to the original post of “In the case of the mentally disabled that job will fall on a parent or carer” were clear enough, but it seems I am missing something. Would you please explain to me why they are insufficient, I am seriously not getting this.

            chemgeek> Your gaslighting of me and my experiences by insisting that I’m “completely wrong” about what’s going on here is not appreciated.

            Nowhere have I stated “disabled people are as small children”, nor have I said “they are incapable of making their own decisions or running your own lives”, these are your words not mine. My position is the polar opposite – i.e. that the whole purpose of disability services is to assist (commensurate to their needs) to live a full and happy life, to be as independent as practically possible, to be accepted and treated as equals.

            The fact that you think I am gaslighting you (I had to look that up) is worrying, please read this post in full before you reply to any of it. But no I am not gaslighting you, and I certainly don’t want to be the cause of any distress, so please, dispel that thought.

            chemgeek> I have far more experience at detecting ableism than you do. I live as a person disabled with several invisible disabilities, including chronic illness, a neurological GI issue, and of course my autism. I experience ableist bigotry daily. Accept that my 26 years of experience in encountering such bigotry makes me much better at recognizing it than a person who, from all available information to me, is currently-able with respect to my axes of disability, just like 26 years of being a woman has left me better-equipped to recognize sexism than a man, or that 26 years of being a white person has left me less-equipped to recognize racial prejudice than a PoC. Accept that my 26 years of living with these disabilities makes me better able to recognize ableism than a person who assumes that everyone with mental disabilities are unable to speak for themselves, ever, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. And who, when called on that, steps back to, “Okay, maybe not all mental disabilities. Maybe just developmental disabilities.” And when called on that steps back to maybe just severe developmental disabilities. And when called on that insists that those doing the calling out are mistaken about reality.
            I acknowledge that your experience is greater, I don’t doubt you for a second, I would just hope that you could give me the benefit of the doubt, because you are painting a picture of me that is not accurate.

            chemgeek> It is not my job to give you ableism 101. However, I’m feeling charitable today. How about this: “The purpose of such assistance is to give the best quality of life to those least able to provide it for themselves” – assumes people with DDs are incapable of taking care of themselves. Assumes that we’re like children and need to be taken care of. The purpose of living assistance isn’t to take care of people with DDs, it’s to enable us to take care of our own lives. Big difference in attitude there. The first presumes incompetence, what’ you’re doing, while the second presumes competence.

            I had not realised you would have found such a statement implying that you were to be treated like children, thank you for pointing that out to me. Please believe me when I say nothing could be further from the truth. So let me try again, “The purpose of such assistance is to assist the individual to achieve the best quality of life commensurate to their needs” i.e. more is provide to those that need it, and the specific type of assistance is tailored to that individual.

            chemgeek> Go read about presuming competence and the least-dangerous assumption. It’s important. Right now, you’re presuming incompetence of those with disabilities and making some very dangerous assumptions.

            At the end of the day, typed words are an imprecise form of communication, you took at offence at something I though was quite innocent and accurate. Which is why I honestly wanted you to post what you found offensive.
            I promise you I am not some jerk of the streets looking for a fight, I am genuinely just giving my two cents worth on a subject that I feel I have a lot experience with. The last couple of nights I have been trying and failing to fix this, can we call a truce?

  6. You make a very good point that people with “invisible” physical disabilities also get treated this way. People with disabilities that can’t be seen are often treated the same as people with a mental illness… like it’s not real. This isn’t an acceptable way to treat anyone who is sick, regardless of why they are ill. While most mental health awareness campaigns do not often specifically address the treatment of people with “invisible” physical ailments, I think the end goal of these campaigns will benefit this group as well. I don’t think the vast majority of people advocating better treatment for those with mental illness are trying to pit themselves against those with physical illness. The point of those comics are that we are all the deserving the same compassion and respect, regardless of the origin of our illness and whether it can be seen or is hidden. Putting the conversation in the frame of “Look, you would never treat someone with cancer this way, why are you treating someone else like that?” is just putting the concept into a frame of mind others can easily comprehend…Because most decent people (sadly not all) would never even think to say this sort of thing to someone with cancer or another disease that they can clearly see the effects of.

    1. “Putting the conversation in the frame of “Look, you would never treat someone with cancer this way, why are you treating someone else like that?” is just putting the concept into a frame of mind others can easily comprehend…Because most decent people (sadly not all) would never even think to say this sort of thing to someone with cancer or another disease that they can clearly see the effects of.”

      I think that’s what people who don’t have chronic illnesses don’t understand though– these things ABSOLUTELY are said to people with physical disabilities all the time.

  7. I’ve had a hidden physical disability for the past eight years, and I could write a books’ worth of comments to this article, but I’ll try to restrain myself, and just pick one of the many comments I receive, seemingly more benign, yet still insidious – “you look fine to me.” I mean, let’s think about what this person is actually saying: “even though you just told me that you are disabled with a physical illness and are not working, which I forced you to say — because like everyone else in the United States of America, the first thing I ask anyone when I meet them is what is their job — and because I don’t see evidence of your illness at this moment with my own two eyes, I choose not to believe you.” Unfortunately, a significant percentage of the population think that the former comment is *not* a grossly inappropriate thing to say, even though the vast majority of people would think the latter comment is. Because if someone said the second comment to you, you would feel well within your rights tell them to fuck off, but when people say the first comment, I so often end up giving some sort of explanation as to how even if I physically look fine I’m not actually fine, which ultimately after-the-fact I realize was a mistake, because I’ve inadvertently put myself in position where I’m justifying myself when I have nothing to justify, and this small act of justifying myself to someone makes me feel emotionally terrible. Anyway, I need to just start training myself to disengage from these people and just say “thanks,” or some sort of blow-off comment, and move along.

    And yes, telling people that they need to be more positive, and that this is an essential part of recovery, is the worst kind of toxic sludge out there. Ironically, I know for myself, and I bet a hell of a lot of other people that have dealt with disabling physical illnesses for years is that actually, one can get so disconnected/out of it/numb, that I know for myself, I just long to be able to feel the range and intensity of bad feelings that I would feel before I got sick – that in fact many negative emotions are hard for me to even experience now because the whole ordeal has just been so long and hard and imprisoning that I just have become more and more shut down. So if anything, being in touch with “negative feelings” would actually make me a hell of a lot happier and feel a whole lot better.

    And, my sweet baby deity, if anyone says the word gluten to me again… Although I’ll take your gluten and raise you — an acquaintance of mine at restaurants would tell me that it was bad to drink water with ice cubes in it, and if I did this along with a number of other crazy dietary things somehow I would magically be cured. Oy vey.

    Anyway, thanks for continuing to bring awareness to these things – I really appreciate it.

  8. I enjoyed this article. It was a helpful reminder (and eye opener) regarding how I personally address people with mental disabilities.

    I would like to add a couple of notes regarding your comments about the legal issues at the bottom of the article: First, while it is true that the federal ADA only applies to employers with 15 or more employees, the same is true of race, gender, religion, etc. I am sure that you think that all of those should be applied universally, which is fair, but I think your article implies that we are treating disability discrimination differently than other forms of discrimination, which is not true at all.

    Second, state and local laws typically prevent discrimination by employers with fewer numbers of employees. In Kentucky, the state discrimination law applies to employers with 8 or more employees, which I believe is fairly universal in other states, and local ordinances sometimes apply down to even fewer numbers. The federal law is not the only protection.

    Third, keep in mind that the primary justification for not applying the ADA to smaller employers is that the ADA often requires employers to make potentially expensive renovations to office space in order to accommodate employees with disabilities. Obviously some businesses can deal with this easier than others, but on a universal level, it is not irrational to draw a line at 8 or 15 employees as a reasonable threshold for distinguishing between the types of employers who can best absorb those costs and the types of employers who would be sunk by, for example, putting in an elevator into an old building or widening doorways and halls.

    Certainly, the policy can be debated, but I think it is unfair to call it a load of bullshit.

  9. “The reasoning behind this is that it “protects” small business, which quite frankly, is a load of bullshit.”
    I don’t completely disagree, but I think the phrasing is off. I can actually understand the reasoning. If one small business has to incur costs to accommodate an employee with disabilities that a competitor does not, then the competitor does gain an advantage. Having said that, I would say that the solution to this problem is what is bullshit. The solution should not be to give such a business an exemption, but rather it should be for the government to help the business absorb that cost.

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