I’m going to step in it.

July 30, 2012 at 6:13 AM (Uncategorized) (, , )

I’m going to try and discuss the born-with versus acquired experience of disability…

Looking back on my years only-with-cerebral-palsy, they were my most active years, and eventually, the most integrated.  Most of my friends when I was 29 were able bodied, I had a husband, a job, an apartment and shared expenses on a car even though I couldn’t pass the permanent driver’s test.

Intellectually, I will always support anybody in regard to disability rights, whether it’s born-with, acquired, just-found-out-about-last week.  Intellectually, when working on these things, I will never differentiate between one experience and another in a way that raises one at the expense of the other.

I refuse to be so divisive out in the world.

But if I’m honest, don’t I have to admit *somewhere* when I hear these courageously battling back from injury stories…and how it’s so tragic, I sometimes think “Welcome to my neighborhood formerly Privileged Person.  You’ve had X years of being able bodied.  I’ve had none.  You have the mental experience of what it’s like to run, to jump.  You at least *know* what that’s like. I can only guess.  So stop kvetching (complaining) and suck it up.”

But of course….Karma gets you for that kind of thinking.

I’ve had several acquired impairments between the ages of 30 and 50.

Because I now understand the two part  life, the before/ after problem, I  *empathize* profoundly with others who’ve acquired disabilities. Prior to stacking up my list of acquired stuff…it was one life…bumpy but one life…now it’s a series of cracks that need adaptation…and both sides are visible.

The huge frustration, of knowing you used to be able to do X thing…and now cannot  (when you’ve not yet found an adaptive way that suits you.)

The suddenness of the difference in the way you’re treated in public spaces. (when I went from crutches to a wheelchair I noticed this a great deal.)

Often, there’s a fairly quick shift in socialization.  Acquired disability has cost so many people relationships, friends, lovers, spouses…in who stays in your circle and who decides to leave…(this can be very painful and contributes to the ‘disabling’ aspect of any impairment.)

In those of us ‘born with’ disability…a lot of my associates have worked out long time friendships/support systems that are just subject to life changes, the same as the able…in other words the friendship isn’t likely to turn on the disability itself.

Anecdotally,   I believe the ‘born with disability’ crowd is less likely to have an officially sanctioned romantic partnership. They work out solutions, but it’s different than the piece of paper.  I have no clue why that is…but it’s out there.   If you acquire disability,  and you have an existing marriage…it’s tough, see above, but you may very well keep that.  You keep some pieces of able privilege.

One of the reasons I’m talking about this is a fine piece by Laurie Crosby

that really brings out the two different lives, pre and post disability…while showing someone who is doing the hard work of accepting the good in our community.

Holding on to this division is a drag and a detriment to discovering each other.  Discovering our ability or skills or gifts, what we can bring to the work of disability rights…

By the same token, if we deny this is a long standing divide for some folks, we’ll delay the best strategies for trying to cross it or put it down.

Nothing about us without us.

All of us.




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