Disabled Needs — Not Inconvenient, Not Optional

In June of this year, Lorde compared her friendship with certain celebrities to having a friend with an autoimmune disease, discussing how “there are certain places you can’t go together. Certain things you can’t do. There are these different sets of considerations within the friendship”.

I really hope you don’t need me to tell you why that’s wrong. Lorde apologised, but the sentiment still rankled many disabled folks. And for good reason. Making adjustments, for a lot of us, is part of our daily life. We do not have a choice. We have to make adjustments, or else we can’t live.

As someone with four disabilities, I guarantee you that every single disabled/chronically ill individual has had to make travel or social plan adjustments in their life. And if their friends or family are understanding, that’s great! But I have come across so many people who weren’t, who aren’t — and some who probably never will be, simply for the reason that they refuse to learn and instead expect disabled people to fit their non-disabled box.

I see you sighing when I ask to change route, or a different venue. And your sigh speaks volumes about how annoyingly inconvenient it is to accommodate me. And you know what? Your sigh can fuck off. Your eye-roll can fuck off. I deserve to be accommodated. I matter. Your attitude would imply that I don’t. That’s painful as hell, and it continues to be so, despite how many times I’ve experienced it in my life. If there are places your friend can’t go, or distances they struggle with — listen. Accept it. Their health is much more important than that store or exhibit or restaurant you want to go to that’s across the other side of the city. (It doesn’t matter if there are cabs or good public transport available — those can still be inaccessible, both physically and financially.) You can go to that place another day — there’s no physical barrier stopping you, not like there is for your disabled friend.

But because of your highly self-centred and intolerant attitude, you’re signalling to your friend that their physical/mental needs aren’t important enough to override your personal wants. That’s messed up. Don’t do that. Don’t be that person. Chances are that that disabled friend of yours already feels bad asking for adjustments, that they think their needs are inconvenient. Don’t make them feel worse. If you are that person, take a step back and think. You’re not being a friend to your disabled pal, not in the least. You’re being hurtful and selfish. If you catch yourself sighing or growing frustrated? Pause. Evaluate why. And then please realise that it’s not their fault they can’t meet your abled standards. The only person at fault is you for not making allowances for them.

Remember, folks — disabled people are not inconvenient. We’re humans with lives and we deserve to have lives that are both liveable and good. That includes our friends and family being helpful and accepting. Understanding what we can and can’t do. Knowing that pushing limits can have truly detrimental effects on our health, both mental and physical.

So next time you try to insist on doing someone that a disabled or chronically ill individual in your group or outing would struggle to do, know that you’re directly hurting them. You’re forcing them to strain, and perhaps even forcing them out of the outing.

And if that is your intention, I really have to wonder what sort of friend you think you are.