It’s Your Fault!

Chally gets to the heart of accessibility and ableism.

Image Description: Chally, a young woman with curly hair and glasses, wearing a tan hat and pink jacket, stands against a sandstone brick wall.

When’s the last time you heard something like this?

  • People with disabilities are stealing the good parking spaces.
  • People with disabilities are cheating to get government benefits.
  • People with disabilities scam us all to get the good seats.
  • Between infotainment television and living your daily life, if you’re disabled, you’ve probably heard some variation on this theme all too often.

    The thing is, people with a disability need accommodations. Accommodations aren’t optional extras, they aren’t something we can give up if we try a bit harder. Neither are we out to get all the money/spots/benefits at the expense of the rest of the population. We’re not just using the designated seating on the bus to annoy those who have to stand – and the accusatory glances are enough to wear one right down, let me tell you. The perception that we are getting all the good things in life at the expense of good, kind, innocent souls is both ridiculous and damaging. We’re just trying to live our lives. And we have to fight to get every single accommodation, and deal with begrudging and doubting attitudes while we do so. Actually, the word “accommodation” is itself telling. People with disabilities must merely be tolerated, merely accommodated, rather than our needs being thought of as important enough to be included as a matter of course, no asking required.

    Framing people with disabilities as lazy scammers is a terrible thing to do. One end result is that people with disabilities internalise the idea that we’re lazy cheats who could overcome systemic and insurmountable barriers if we really wanted to. That’s really quite an achievement for ableism in the internalised dissonance stakes there. It’s the equivalent of saying to an abled person that they should just overcome there being no seats in a waiting room or concert, or the provision of books without words they can read, or the requirement that they enter a room without a door. It’s completely ridiculous, it’s unreasonable, and it’s essentially on a plane with that which people with disabilities are asked to do all the time.

    Such internalised ableism has certainly had an impact on my life. For example, in registering with the disability service at my uni this year, I had to push myself to ask for and utilise the educational accommodations I needed. I felt really guilty about asking for accessible lecture rooms and lecture recordings. I wasn’t trying to set up a better deal for myself than for the other students, I had to keep reminding myself, but was simply trying to gain an equitable education. I’ve as much right to my money’s worth, and as much right to work as well as I can, as any other student. It’s been a real struggle to keep that in mind given the constant pressure on my conviction of my self-worth. The worst was during an exam last semester, when a supervisor argued with me about accommodations while I was writing!

    Requiring extra time in exams or an elevator or an interpreter isn’t cheating. Really. It just seems that way because the vast majority of society and infrastructure are geared at the needs of types of people who are constructed as “normal”. It’s not that people with disabilities are being overly assertive or inconvenient, it’s that the needs of abled people are constructed as par for the course and ours are not. If systems, buildings and organisations were constructed with the needs of actual populations in mind, we wouldn’t be having this conversation.

    The biggest barrier, at the end of the day, is this narrative that people with disabilities are undeserving. Every other access problem begins here.

    Chally Kacelnik is an arts student at the University of Sydney who proudly claims an undying love of fiction, baked goods and the theatre. She’s been figuring out how to negotiate the world as a young, chronically ill woman since her diagnosis in 1997. You can find her writing on such blogs as and

    This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

    2 Responses to It’s Your Fault!

    1. Erica says:

      Great post, Chally! Sadly, I think that many people see needed accommodations as “cheating,” especially when it comes to academics. Also, I actually had one of my high school teachers say to me, “But, Erica, you don’t need accommodations because you’re so SMART!” Although this angered me greatly, I was able to calmly explain to her that many children, adolescents, and adults with learning disabilities are also intelligent. It is not as if being LD and being erudite are mutually exclusive. One of my classmates told me that she overheard this teacher talking to the principal about how it’s “unfair to the other students” that I got extended test-taking time and some breaks (to go get juice or something else with sugar for when my blood sugar would be low). Even though I did not hear this myself, I would not be surprised if this were true. I do not think that accommodations for people who disabilities are unfair at all. Sure, there may be a few people who get accommodations who should not have them, but this is no reason for denying us (people with disabilities) of our dignity.

    2. Nonny says:

      Here by way of FWD.🙂

      My boyfriend is dealing with a lot of the fall-out of these accusations. He injured his leg at work several years ago, and was on workman’s comp before getting a (paltry, imo) settlement. After boatloads more tests, they still can’t figure out exactly what’s wrong, and he’s having to look at applying for disability.

      The problem being that certain members of his family have sent him accusatory, passive-aggressive messages essentially telling him he’s leeching off the system, just like he leeched off his parents. (Because instead of moving out, he stayed at home to provide care for his disabled mother. Somehow, this equates to being a using loser who can’t break out of the nest. I don’t even know.)

      Now that there have been events that have clearly shown him that no, he can’t hold a job, even though he dearly wants to work (and he’s the type whose identity is all meshed in his ability to work)… yeah. He’s having to face all that. And it’s rough, because all the bullshit things his family have said are coming back.

      Granted, I’m not one to talk. I still haven’t spoken to my doctor about acquiring a disabled placard because my anxiety flares up every time I think about the eventual crap that’s going to come my way because I’m a reasonably well-dressed, decent-looking twenty-five year old who isn’t obviously disabled. Never mind I can barely make it through Walmart. Sigh.

    Leave a Reply

    Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

    You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

    Twitter picture

    You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

    Facebook photo

    You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

    Google+ photo

    You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

    Connecting to %s