Wednesday, December 23, 2015

What Do I Want From The Mighty?

I've been thinking a lot about this in the last few days. The Mighty says they want to learn from their mistakes of the past. They say they want to do better. If that is true, then that would be great, but I'm not convinced of that. I hope they prove me wrong. 

In light of that, I'd like to offer The Mighty my perspective on how they could do better. 

The Mighty claims to support disabled people and their families. I can address this issue from both the perspective of a disabled person, and as family of disabled people, because I am an Autistic parent, and I have Autistic children. So I'll start with the parent side first.

I recognized disability in one of my children about 6 years ago. At that time, there was not a lot of community support that I found helpful. I didn't yet know he was Autistic, but what I read of autism was more scary than educational. Although your site did not yet exist, stories like the ones you share were consuming the Internet. When people say it is so very kind to treat a disabled person with basic dignity, it harms the disability community. Because of these inspiration porn stories, I pictured a life for my son in which people would congratulate themselves for being his friend, or chatting politely at his place of work, or allowing him to score in a sporting event. The idea of that broke me apart. It didn't uplift me. Because I knew my son was a real person, full of personality and passion. The consequence was that I fought the idea of disability. I hoped he would outgrow it. I delayed diagnosis and services like OT, because I didn't want that future for him. Once I recognized he was Autistic, I started seeking out the real experts- Autistic people.

That was a turning point for me. To realize that he was ok, that there were plenty of Autistic adults who didn't wait around for a kind person to go to Homecoming with them. People were out there live damn good lives. Disabled lives. They had genuine achievements to be proud of. Not proud because they did it even though they are disabled. Proud because they are doing genuinely cool things, things they enjoy, things they are good at, sometimes things that make this world a better place. So I followed the real experts, and I never looked back. 

A bit farther into that journey, I recognized that another one of my kids is also Autistic, and that I am too. Today, I see stories from your site in my newsfeed. People are discussing how "kind" it is that someone accepted the cake decorated by an Autistic person, because she thought it would be funny. For the record, I find that pretty unkind, actually. I also find a coworker discussing disability status of another person to be unethical. When sites like yours continuously share these kinds of stories, it causes people to pity people like me. They feel like they have done something great just for using basic manners. They don't see me as their equal. They don't see me as someone who could really be their friend, or capable coworker. That's not making the world better for me or my kids.

So what do I want? I want you to center disabled people. Let us tell our own stories. Don't just choose the disabled people that talk nicely, and portray a feel good message that nondisabled people want to hear. Seek out people that challenge the status quo. Pay them for their time. Make the stories you print be mostly disabled perspectives, not just a few here and there. Give disabled people space to tell their stories, our stories, in our own way. Show us you are ready to listen. 

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