Intact prejudices about non-autistic disabled people


I am going through my hard drive after moving a bunch of files from an old computer to a new computer. I may be using those files, or parts of those files, as blog entries, if I find anything sufficiently interesting.

I have a file in front of me that I must have written when fed up with autism groups online. I wrote a whole long list of things I was fed up with. Some of them are relevant only to a particular flamewar, and those won’t get repeated, but some of them are generic (and not even things that were happening in that flamewar, necessarily), and regardless of what emotional state I was in when I wrote them, they’re real when I’m calm, too.

The first thing on the list is that even in autistic-dominated groups, people frequently retain conventional prejudices about disabled people who are not autistic, or who are autistic and something else too.

This isn’t really surprising to me. I have encountered conventional prejudices about autistic people while involved in political groups for physically disabled people, people with developmental disabilities (which are usually dominated by non-autistic people), and psychiatric ex-patients. It’s not surprising (to me at least) that autistic people do the same thing as everyone else on this matter, because without direct knowledge we (anyone) a lot of times believe what we’re taught. Which is one reason that I find it really important to have a background in several of these areas, rather than just one.

Instead of going over each and every detail of the common things people believe, I’m just going to provide some websites that, if you haven’t been exposed to these ideas before (or even if you have), may be really interesting:

Disabled and Proud (ended up hunting this one down again after an autistic person told me there was no comparison between autistic and other disabled people because disability could never be a basis for pride, and I’ve heard this from more than just him)

Laura Hershey’s Articles (because some people who hate CAN still think the telethon is wonderful)

I am a person, not a disease. (because so many people say it would be okay to screen us out if we could only screen out “retarded” people)

Confessions of a Non-Compliant Patient (because autistic people tend to believe the same things about “psychiatric patients” as everyone else does)

Oral History Project (likewise)

LLF (…and likewise)

People First win freedom in Tennessee (because a mother told me once that it must have been the parents that did it, because people with intellectual disabilities couldn’t possibly do anything like this)

Self Advocates Becoming Empowered (likewise)

Not Dead Yet (because autistic people, like a lot of people, often still think they’re merely being “objective” when they say that a certain kind or level of disability reduces “quality of life” and thus reason to be alive in the first place, no matter how many scientific researchers contradict this almost in spite of themselves, no matter how many disabled people of all kinds say otherwise)

Mouth Magazine and Ragged Edge Magazine are both magazines that try not to be specific to a particular category of disabled people, although it does inevitably happen sometimes. (Be prepared for the fact that both include some people who believe the mercury moms, which is IMO a weakness in a lot of groups believing that anything that looks like a government coverup probably is.)

You may notice when going through those pages, that some people on them have a prejudiced or distorted view of us, autistic people. That’s true. It’s equally true that too many of us have a prejudiced or distorted view of them, and reading these things might make you think twice (they certainly made me think twice about some things).


About Mel Baggs

Hufflepuff. Came from the redwoods. Crochet or otherwise create constantly and compulsively. Write poetry and paint when I can. Developmentally disabled, physically and cognitively disabled. I'm not really part of any online faction or another, even ones that claim me as a member. The thing in the world most important to me is having love and compassion for other people, although I don't always measure up to my own standards there by a longshot. And individual specific actions and situations and contexts matter a lot more to me than broadly-spoken abstract words and ideas about a topic. My father died in 2014 and that has changed my life a lot in ways that are still evolving, but I wear a lot of his clothes and hats every day since he died and have shown no sign of stopping soon.

5 responses »

  1. I’ve bookmarked all of the sites and read most of them. (Only took me about half an hour.)

    It’s particularly interesting to me, because just this week I was involved in a debate about prejudice and racism that included some discussion regarding mental disorders (specifically, autism and bipolar disorder were mentioned) and STDs. The discussion itself revolved around who people would/would not date, and why, and took place on the BBS I’ve been a member of since 1994, but I always take notice of how closely the “unrelated” parts of my life mirror each other. I’ve found that God (or “the Universe”, depending on the religion you happen to espuse) tends to create these situations for me when I need to learn or pay attention to something about myself.

  2. One of my prejudices is that I thought people with intellectual disability couldn’t go to university. (Donna Williams has a measured IQ of 69 and she went to university at La Trobe to study sociology, but I think she went to uni before she had an IQ test).

    I had that one pretty well smashed by the time Think College was read through by me.

  3. Yeah I know of several people who were at university or grad school before they got an IQ test with a very low score. I don’t think that they would have gotten a higher score while they were at university, though. The test measures… the test.

    But yeah I’ve also known of a lot of people who had an intellectual disability diagnosis lifelong who attended college or university. But it’s made very difficult — including by IQ cutoffs that tell them they shouldn’t be there in the first place.

    …and then I’ve known a lot of people with higher IQs who could not handle university at all.

  4. Pingback: Deaf Pride, Disability Pride « ReunifyGally

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