On Sunday we decided that we needed to inject a tiny a bit of class and culture in a weekend Netflix ‘Dynasty’ haze. To meet that end we went to see Shakespeare’s “A Winter’s Tale” which was being broadcast live from England. It was playing in a movie theatre neat us, Shakespeare and popcorn! We arrived to find the disabled parking quite flooded from melting snow so we stopped at the ramp leading to the theatre and Joe got the wheelchair out and I got in. He turned to help me get through the doors when someone appeared saying, “I’ll hold the door for you.” Joe said, “No, we’re good, we have this routine down. “It’s okay, I don’t mind.” Joe again, “Please just let us do this on our own.” No, I’m waiting for my brother in law who is in a wheelchair too.”

And then she said it, “So I know what it’s like.”

I hear this freaking phrase far too often. People speaking of ‘knowing’ what disability is like because they, pick one:

1) had to use a wheelchair when they broke their leg.
2) had a relative of some sort who had a disability.
3) went to a training where they had to undergo a simulation of disability for 15/20/45/60 minutes.
4) once worked at a camp with disabled children.
5) presently work with adults with disabilities in some capacity.
6) saw this documentary or psa about disability, and oh how it made me cry
7) have a child with a disability – of any age.
8) once saw a person with a disability across the street.

This is theft.

This is silencing.

This is erasure.

I don’t care if you worked with, lived with, parented a person with a disability you don’t “know what its like.” You know your experience, but that’s YOURS not mine. A parent doesn’t “know what it’s like for their child;’ a staff doesn’t ‘know what it’s like for the person they serve; and using a wheelchair for a week or two doesn’t give you the slightest clue as to “know what it’s like.”

Speak for yourself. Your experience is valid and valuable in the discussion of disability but your experience is just yours. Disabled people who live 24/7 with their disability are the only one’s who “know what it’s like.” But even there. I know what it’s like for me, I know what my disability means and doesn’t mean. But I speak only for me and my experience. I do not speak for and cannot speak to the experience of someone who has a different disability and different life realities.

So.

In any and all situations you need to ‘speak for yourself.’

And, no one else.

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