Acceptance makes responsibility possible

Sometimes disability and responsibility are seen as opposites. This is destructive, and it’s related to a taboo against acknowledging disability and ability at the same time.

Within this taboo, either we’re seen as basically just like everyone else, or we’re seen as basically unable to do anything that matters. This makes it very difficult to develop a sense of what it means to be responsible as a disabled person.

People who want us to see ourselves as capable often teach us to try and ignore our bodies, so that we can pretend that we’re really just like everyone else. This teaches us to pretend to have abilities we don’t have — and to make promises that we can’t keep. 

On the other hand, we’re often taught that being disabled means that our promises don’t count for anything. That it’s just a symbolic gesture, and that no one is ever counting on us in a real way. That everything we do is just practice, or symbolic, or someone else’s charitable attempt to include us. (Eg: a kid with a disability may be put on a baseball team nominally, expected to attend practices and games, never taught to actually play, and given the chance to hit a fake home run late in the season as a feel good event.) This can make it really, really hard to learn that it matters what we do.

There’s nothing inevitable about this. Disability doesn’t have to mean magical thinking and constant broken promises, and it doesn’t have to mean a never-ending stream of fake tasks. It can mean understanding the bodies we live in, and the minds we have. It can mean taking all of that into account when we decide what to do, and when we make promises. We can take real responsibility and do things that matter.