Today, I demanded to be heard. I stood in front of you, awkward, blushing, annoyed with your surprise at seeing me here, angry with my mother – because she let her anger with you flow freely, and me too busy with holding my own anger back, jealous of her freedom.
“What do you want me to do?” I ask. Subtly telling you that I am here. Me. I. Do not speak to my mom. Do not give her instructions.
You repeated yourself: “Have her put her signature here.” After the second attempt of me signing my name – “Have her write right there,” and “She has to push harder with the pen.” – someone remembers that they have a signature guide. I am instructed on how to use it; the irony doesn’t escape me.
My subtlety never seems to be blunt enough. Or, it is too rude – not polite enough. I am always one or the other. Too quiet or too loud.
Later, as we walk out, I laugh it off. Telling my mom – who is still furious – not to worry, that it’s okay. The sunglasses hide my eyes tearing and my smile hides me pushing my tongue and holding it down.
I am furious.
I try to tell myself that I was unexpected. It was the woman’s first time and I was – clearly – the first blind voter she’s ever had to sign in. It could have been worse.
It doesn’t help. From the lady who told my mom – not me – to follow the arrows, rudely interrupting me when I tried to ask for actual directions, to the couple of women behind the sign-in desk that had no idea what to do with me and how to deal with me, to the children running around, not listening to me when I said DO-NOT-TOUCH-THE-DOG, and to the man who refused to take a “I’ve got it, you don’t have to help me,” as evidence to GO-AWAY-I-CAN-TAKE-IT-FROM-HERE.
Telling myself that I voted, I was heard, I am here and have proof that I am here doesn’t help.
I could write a post about the struggles and triumphs the disabled community has had when fighting for the right to vote. I could write about how I am not sure the candidates I voted for will actually remember us (not just when using us as an example or feel-good moment), recognize that we are here and we want – should – be heard, and realize that health care – although important – isn’t the only thing we care about: equal access to education, justice, employment, housing, and society; we are more than disabled, our lives and bodies intersect with all areas of life.
The fact of the matter is: it is all the same – rather, it begins in the same place.
People with disabilities are disabled and only disabled. Until we stop being “unexpected”, nothing will change. All stories will have the same starting point, the same hope, the same struggles.