Image description: Line drawing of a ‘Certificate of Gimp Status’ made out to Dave Hingsburger and dated 2016
We opened the letter from the government expecting my tax refund cheque. Instead, we got a letter stating that I had to reapply in order to continue in my tax status as a disabled person. I was directed to the form that the doctor needed to fill out and advised that if it cost not to expect the government to pay. OK. I guess perhaps they expected that somehow my disability disappeared and they wanted confirmation that the wheelchair under me was still real and if it was real it was necessary.
Now, let’s be clear. I know I have a disability. I know that my status as a disabled person is real. I knew that my doctor would fill out the form and I would send it in and that all would, hopefully, be well. But even knowing that, going through the process, (spoiler alert: I’m still disabled) was intensely unpleasant. I’m not sure why.
I’m not sure the issue was even with the government asking me to send in new information from the doctor. Instead I think it’s the atmosphere that I feel, separate from the government, from those who just assume things about me and those like me …
… that I’m lazy.
… that I could walk if I had the motivation to.
… that I don’t contribute.
… that disabled people like me are a drain on the system.
… that I need to live under the scrutiny of others to ensure my life has no fun or feasts or frills.
… that disability needs to mean poverty of mind, spirit and pocket so that it is duly punished.
… that I am a member of a community of fakers and cheats and scroungers.
I know who I am. I am proud of the disabled community. I know that these attitudes stem from bigotry and fear and even hatred. I know that.
But the pervasive attitudes towards disability, attitudes which have hardened over the years as people have identified those with disabilities as part of the problem, are so intense that I find myself feeling as if I need to explain to everyone, not just the government, who I am and why I am and how I am. I feel I need to defend myself in some vague way from some vague but deeply frightening adversary.
I now have my medical certificate certifying me as a real disabled person. I guess that’s, for me, a signal that the battle continues.