Saturday, March 31, 2012

Vocational Rehab frustrations, ableism, and thinking before you act

People hear about privilege not uncommonly at this point, in regards to race, gender or sexual identity, even at this point disability; groups of people not needing to put the effort in that minority groups do; groups of people not needing to fight for a voice; groups of people having the privilege of not needing to think about what's going on deeply.

Sometimes people forget these groups are made up of individuals. We can talk about the groups as much as we want, and changing the overall societal view is more the goal in the long run, but individuals, rather than only groups, falling back on their privilege ends up hurting other individuals as well. Groups having privilege effects society, but individuals need to remember their actions as well.

The thing about discrimination is that its often not purposeful. While people will go out of their way to hurt others, its also often that people are just not thinking about or realizing the affects their actions will take. For something like ableism, far too often it even occurs when someone is trying to help.

Lately I've been dealing with this in vocational rehab. The person who's been working with me is clearly trying, yet because she doesn't understand, is falling into this same trap. She wants to help me - she makes that clear - yet she is treating me like either I don't have problems (because I look high functioning), or like I'm incompetent (because I'm having issues with random small things). She's been getting better about this as she learns, and I entirely give her credit for this fact, but the frustration from the earlier meetings remains. Her trying to help has actually caused problems for me because of her not knowing how to help, and this is even in the case of a professional.

This will be something I have to deal with, but the more others think about the effects of their actions and try to determine what the unintended consequences will be, the less I'll have to cope with. Someone who tries to help me find a job, might cause me to feel more worthless if its done improperly. Someone who tries to just have a normal birthday party, might cause me near physical pain levels of overload. Someone doing what they view as just living their life, might directly cause me mental pain.

So really, all I want to say, is to think about the effects of your actions before taking them, even if you're trying to do good. Actions do have unnecessary, unintended side effects. This is incredibly common when dealing with privilege. This has been affecting me a lot lately. Luckily vocational rehab is getting better, because she is learning how to deal with my case rather than other cases she's worked with, but its still something I'm having to deal with.

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