Theo explains their journey of becoming disabled during lockdown and the ableism they faced. They also share some insight into how they would like to be treated.
I became visibly disabled during the first year of lockdown. There was no car accident or anything dramatic, it just slowly happened over a few months. Part of this is due to suspected endometriosis and other chronic illnesses but most of it is still unknown.
What Ableism is
Ableism is a set of beliefs that often makes people think disabled people are lesser, need to be 'fixed', or are faking it. This can take many forms including physical barriers like no ramps or lifts in buildings, which essentially bars us from entering, or people's views that we are faking being disabled for money or fame (considering that almost half the people in poverty are disabled and the price of medicine and medical equipment this is definitely a lie).
The Ableism I've Faced
I've faced ableism my whole life even though I've only realised this recently when I was diagnosed as Autistic and started seeking other diagnoses. Most of it was through the school system from teachers changing my password to 'idiot', to other students being generally horrible. I had to move schools multiple times because of this and eventually to homeschool when I became a full-time wheelchair user and there were no appropriate wheelchair accessible schools in my region.
Seeking a Diagnosis
This has been a very long and arduous journey, one that is nowhere near completion. It took countless GP appointments plus multiple late night A&E visits before I got a referral to paediatrics, waiting months for an appointment, then more referrals, and then waiting even longer for second opinions. I finally got a scan and I'm still waiting on the results over four years since this all started.
How to treat disabled people
Finally, here is the most important section of this. Something that is not talked about nearly enough is how to treat disabled people.
Now, I am just one person so some disabled people might disagree and that's ok, this is built on my experiences.
First of all, always assume competence. It's ok to ask if we need help or ask about our access needs but you have to respect it when we say no, we know our own bodies best and we know if and when we need help.
Second, please interact with us like you would anyone else. Don't use a baby voice or act like we are children. We are people too and deserve to be treated with respect and kindness like anyone else.
Lastly, don't apologise when we say we are disabled! It's not a bad or negative thing just like how being gay or transgender isn't a bad thing. Instead, say 'thanks for trusting me with that' as it is much more appreciated.
If you want to learn more about disability, I suggest watching documentaries like Crip Camp or following disabled creators on Instagram, TikTok or YouTube.
Check out more blogs and content created by young Scots on the issues that matter most to them and submit your own blog pitch on our Youth Loneliness blogs page.
If you're interested in volunteering, visit the #YSHive page to see what volunteer opportunities are available with Young Scot.
For more information about supporting your mental health and emotional wellbeing visit our AyeFeel page.
Young Scot supports young people to share their own voices, views and opinions and works with partner organisations and professionals who are experts in different topics. The views expressed in this blog are those of the young people, organisations and/or individuals who have taken part in the blog, not necessarily the views of Young Scot.