A few years ago, I spoke to a group of adults with multiple sclerosis about my food blog Tasting Toronto on Wheels. I explained to them that the purpose of my blog was to be a resource for people with physical disabilities to find accessible restaurants in the city. What I was met with was questions about why I didn't include descriptions of the washrooms in my reviews (which I refuse to do because I believe it will deter people from ever going to the restaurants) and comments about how restaurants in Toronto are too expensive. I left the group discussion deflated, wondering why I was even bothering to write my blog in the first place. Since I started Tasting Toronto on Wheels I have received positive feedback from the food and restaurant industry and non-disabled people, but the disabled community has never been receptive, despite several attempts to get them on board with it.
My experience participating in the group discussion verified something for me that I always felt in my gut, but didn't always want to admit: a lot disabled people are perpetually negative and angry.
I understand that my opinion may sound like I'm generalizing disabled people or that I'm not being sympathetic enough, but as somebody with a disability who has spent time with other disabled people I feel like this observation is justified. I know having a disability is not easy. There are health problems, issues with accessibility, inequality issues, and day to day physical limitations that makes life complicated and exhausting at times, but I still don't feel like these reasons are justification to be miserable all the time. The way I see it is that everyone deals with problems in their life.
Many physically disabled people I've encountered in my life struggle with two things: acceptance and control. They have a hard time accepting their disability and physical limitations. I'll admit, I have a hard time understanding why someone who has had a disability since birth would struggle with acceptance as an adult. This is likely because my parents were very honest about my disability with me and didn't sugarcoat what my life (the good and the bad) would entail. They basically said to me at a young age, "This is your life. We will help and encourage you to have the most fulfilling life as possible, but you have Spina Bifida. You're never going to walk."
The battle for control stems from the lack of control disabled people feel they don't have. This is an issue I've personally dealt with throughout my life. Since I depend on others for assistance with things like personal care (i.e. transferring in and out of my wheelchair, dressing, etc.), I look for other ways to regain some of that control. This is usually done by me asserting my independence, sometimes pushing myself a little to hard. I've seen people turn this need for control into an almost obsession with perfectionism. If things are not EXACTLY the way they believe it SHOULD be they're not happy (i.e. the people who didn't like my restaurant reviews because it didn't talk about accessible washrooms). My perspective is that at least in Canada (where I live), I'm fortunate to have luxuries like universal health care and disabled people have the freedom to live independently rather than an institutionalized setting. Since the Charter of Rights and Freedoms was enacted in 1982, there has been progress in the treatment of people with disabilities. We are no longer hidden from the rest of the world and many of us are able to live very fulfilling lives. Is it perfect almost forty years later? Not completely, but there's been steady progress, which I'm forever grateful for. When I look at my life there are very few things I can say I'm unhappy with or wish were different.