Unlearning Ingrained Ableism
Last updated: December 2022
I'll be honest here- I didn't grow up around anyone with a disability. Growing up, classrooms in my school were segregated. I didn't know anyone who was disabled personally until it was my daughter.
I had never heard about ableism
I didn't know what ableism was or how it was perpetuated in society. I was oblivious to it. It wasn't until an encounter that I had at work shortly after having returned from maternity leave.
Telling my co-workers about my daughter's SMA
When I came back to work, I was faced with clients wanting updates on my daughter. Just two months before this she was diagnosed with Spinal Muscular Atrophy type 1.
I would gauge how I would carry this conversation based on what I knew of the client but typically whatever I would say was met with "wow, I am so sorry" or just blank stares.
I made an assumption I shouldn't have
On a slow Saturday, I had a man in a wheelchair come in. We never really talked prior, but had a pleasant enough conversation. After helping him, I walked him over to the door and opened it for him.
I thought I was being helpful but he took it otherwise. I assumed he couldn't open the door, I didn't ask. And he let me have it (rightfully so).
I ran back to my desk. Mortified. In tears.
I didn't want my daughter to feel this - ever
I never, ever wanted to make my daughter feel like I had made him. It hit me extremely hard.
Stella will, without a doubt face exact scenarios like this. When people see that she is in a wheelchair and assume that she cannot do something that she has done time and time again.
For my daughter's sake, I need to relearn and grow
After this interaction I became determined to unlearn the ableism that I had grown up with. I am still learning, every single day.
These are hard topics for parents to talk about but without conversation, we're not growing and changing.
Have you shared your SMA diagnosis story with us yet?