The July article, “Is Expressing Anger Normal for People with Disabilities?” just plain annoyed me. No, I wasn’t angry. I was simply annoyed that a question like this was even posed. Have you ever heard the question, “Is Expressing Anger Normal for Able-bodied People?” Of course not! Anger is a human, emotional response—not a characteristic of disability.
Having said that … I recognize, of course, that there are people with disabilities whose anger is inappropriately generated and directed. Isn’t that true for able-bodied people as well? Of course. Any number of endearing or abrasive emotional responses can overtake most of us from time to time—disabled or able-bodied alike! We’re human!
As a disabled person, I have lashed out—and yes—sometimes when someone has offered to help me. Sometimes, it’s not so much the offer to help I’m reacting to, but the tone in which the offer is made. For example, “Oh honey, can I open the door for you?” bothers me. To me there is something about being called honey by a perfect stranger that feels very patronizing.
So what’s a disabled person to do? Shut up? Suck it up? Blow up? Let off steam? In my opinion, none of these approaches offer an effective solution—especially for the disabled individual who wants to mingle in mainstream society.
Over the years that I’ve been a full-time, wheelchair user, I’ve tried to develop a set of social skills to help me cope with what often seems like a never-ending onslaught of societies’ ignorance about how to interact with a disabled individual. For example, I get extremely annoyed when someone asks me “how have you been feeling.” It isn’t just a casual, routine, “how are ya,” but rather a patronizing, in my face, “oh, you poor thing” kind of question.
Over the years, I’ve given many less-endearing responses to that question, but recently I decided to respond by gently repeating the identical question back to the individual who asked. Often surprised by my question, people generally seem puzzled that I’m asking them such a question—of course—they are not the disabled one!
Unfortunately, I think many assumptions are still made about people with disabilities. Though disabled people have come a long way over the past 50 years—people with visible disabilities still don’t blend into the landscape of able-bodied life very well. Often, we stand out like a sore thumb. For some disabled people that’s no big deal, but for others it is a never-ending challenge to be so visible. Yes, some of us get angry, some of us put up with it, and others withdraw. We are not all made of one mold—we are each human—unique and individually made. And—I think that is a lesson that society still needs to understand about people with disabilities.
Alice Oden, OTR/L, MA
I truly enjoyed Mai Thor’s story on Voter Rights that was in the July 10, 2005 issue. My DT&H, Merrick, Inc., got me involved with the Voter Rights bill during this year’s legislative session. I worked with Mai very closely on this bill. There were plenty of ups and downs, but I was very glad when Governor Pawlenty signed it into law on June 3rd. The provisions that Mai talks about in her story are from Senate File 1551. It was this bill that got included into House File 1481. I was speaking up for my fellow client friends at Merrick that are under state guardianship and did not know where they stand on their right to vote. I wrote a letter to send to legislators to show support for the Voter Rights bill. I even showed up to a House Civil Law and Elections Committee hearing to show support for the bill. I know that all my hard work paid off. Thanks again for a wonderful story.
Self-Advocate Member, the MN Governor’s Council on Developmental Disabilities