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Come With People With Disabilities If You Want to Live

Dear Abled People,

The wisdom of crip, chronically ill, disabled, and spoonie communities holds the healing you need. Whether you’re sick with COVID-19 or developing long-term complications. Whether you’re confused about science, questioning its limits and the biases of those we hear the loudest, or feeling helpless and unsure about how to apply your knowledge. Whether you’re fighting or coping with oppressions, feeling unfree. Whether people around you are hurting or insulting you, or whether you’re burnt out by unreasonable or impossible expectations. Whether you’re in the largest demographic of aging citizens this country has ever seen or someone of any age who has never before had to face what having a body really means — change, limits, pain, hardships. Whether you lost or could lose someone, or something, that you counted on — to pandemics, or climate changes, or divorce, or suicide, or the ever more frequent natural disasters. Or whether you feel alone, like you have nothing left you can even lose anymore, and think you should just give up on all the problems we face as a society.

We are the ones who live “unliveable” lives — you’ve told us so yourselves. We are the ones who find our joy in things you wouldn’t even stoop to notice. We are the ones who are “too complicated” to include in the daily bustle, and “too far gone” when a crisis hits — just like you say the planet is, just like you say this society is, just like you are starting to think your values or your “normal life” are. We are the ones who take up space, who speak up and create change even when we feel like we just can’t anymore — because every time you leave us for dead or shut us away, we check on each other, pull each other up, and stand by each other. We are the ones who learned how to rest, regroup, re-strategize and try again more gently—because we couldn’t do it any other way, or because the establishment told us they couldn’t help us. We are the ones who have learned to weave tragedies both big and small into strength, sensitivity, sensuality, and spiritual meaning. We are the ones who learned how to communicate when no one spoke our language or even taught us one, how to be patient and listen, how to plan, how to find and rely on those who deserve our trust, how to work together, how to think about success differently, and how to accept our humanity and limits in ways you’ve never accepted yours. We are the ones who survive mistreatment and control every day.

We pioneer new research, new treatments, and new management of conditions that you yourself may develop — from this virus, from overwork, from no hospital beds when you needed one, from financial losses and the health challenges that brings, or from global warming. We know how to make space for each other, as well as how to survive the loneliness of too much space. We know how to let go of what we can’t change or what we can’t handle just yet, how to take smaller steps, how to slowly transform and produce even what seemed impossible… and how to have faith we’ll do it again tomorrow.

So many other communities have answers, too. Every marginalized community is telling you how to survive this, and how to help, not harm, others at the same time.

You who are without disabilities are questioning how to get through this time of crisis. Often, people with disabilities have the answers. You’re just not listening.

Getty image by Kieferpix.

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