Pre-COVID when we could go to restaurants, there were times I’d sit down at the table unnoticed. The servers would walk by. After a few minutes, I’d wave to get their attention as they passed by again.
It’s happened to all of us. It’s not a big deal.
But what if the server continues to go to other tables? They never acknowledge you.
You wave. You speak up. You’re there. You need help too.
Maybe they eventually look over and nod a little sign of recognition. But they still don’t do anything. They never come by.
Maybe they eventually briefly stop to tell you they can’t serve you. They don’t have the time. They don’t have the resources.
I recently read Disability Visibility, and so many of the personal stories in the book shout out, “I’m here. I don’t need to be fixed. The world around me is broken.”
Our world could be radically different and inclusive if it hadn’t been built by and for able-bodied people. But, for now, we live in an ableist world that ignores and hides away disability. Maybe those with disabilities can sit at the table, sometimes, but that doesn’t mean they’re acknowledged or that their needs are served by these ableist systems and structures.
All this time, you’re still sitting at the table. Waving, speaking-up, doing your best to draw attention. This isn’t the first time, and it won’t be the last.
Now imagine being reminded everyday that you live in a world that doesn’t consider you. A world that doesn’t value you. A world that says your needs aren’t important enough. A world that tries to contort you to fit inside it.
This is the world we’ve built.
I don’t have any answers, and I am not trying, as an able-bodied person, to speak on behalf of those with disabilities. I’m trying to share an idea that resonated with me in order to hopefully create more empathy and action amongst other able-bodied folks. We need a table where all are welcomed, included, and respected. Rather than listen to me, please check out Disability Visibility and follow disabled activists on Twitter like Alice Wong and Imani Barbarin.