visibility

Assistive technology does not cure disability

When I get into an airplane, I don’t turn into a bird.

All assistive technology is like that.

Airplanes are not wings, and wheelchairs are not legs.  Rolling is different from walking, and it’s ok that it’s different. Typing is not speaking, it’s typed communication. Reading braille isn’t seeing with fingers, it’s tactile reading. And so on. Assistive technology is important, and worth respecting.

Airplanes are amazing. I respect them without pretending that they are wings. Likewise, other people respect me as a competent human being without pretending that an airplane has turned me into a bird.

Assistive technology enables people with disabilities to do more things. It does not turn us into nondisabled people — and it doesn’t need to. We do many things differently, and that’s ok. Respecting us means respecting us as we really are, including acknowledging that our assistive technology exists and matters.

When you don't hide

Some people are bullies. 

Many bullies target people who have apparent stigmatized characteristics.

If you choose to stop hiding a stigmatized part of who you are, some people will be actively mean to you who weren’t mean before.

For example:

  • If you are gay, coming out will make some homophobic bullies more interested in hurting you
  • If you are autistic, stimming in public will make some ableist bullies more interested in hurting you
  • If you wear clothing associated with a stigmatized religion, some bigoted bullies will be more interested in hurting you

This is not your fault, but some people will blame you. Some people will tell you that you brought it on yourself by being visible. You didn’t. Bullying happens because mean people choose to hurt others. 

You were already getting hurt by bullies, because hiding hurts too. The way bullies hurt you when you are more visible is a different kind of hurt. Both are equally real.

Some people in some situation find hiding more bearable. Some people in some situations find being visible more bearable. Both are valid. It’s a personal choice. And the consequences are never your fault.