Can We Agree To Disagree? - Respecting Differences In The Disability Community - The Mobility Resource

Can We Agree To Disagree? — Respecting Differences In The Disability Community

October 20, 2013


Sign reading "Let's Agree to Disagree"Since starting the journey of blogging about disability, I’ve received so many poignant and engaging comments on my posts. I’ve been supported and encouraged, as well as challenged to think in new ways.

I love having opportunities for debate and conversation, and for the most part, I’ve been lucky enough to have readers reach out to me to either agree or disagree with my perspectives in respectful, polite ways.

Unfortunately, I’ve also received some comments in which people harshly criticize or judge what I have to say, simply because my viewpoints regarding disabilities are not in sync with their own.

It is my main goal to express myself in an open-minded and respectful way, acknowledging that I cannot and do not speak for everyone when expressing my thoughts on disabilities.

True, I have posted on my disagreement with certain viewpoints of other members of the disability community. That being said, I always take my time to explore the merits of other perspectives and recognize good arguments made on views different from my own. I always try my best to show that I respect people and the life experiences that have shaped their views, even when we don’t agree on a disability issue.

I fully understand that disabled people all have different experiences; we may have certain things in common, but we are all entitled to our unique worldviews. However, while it is one thing to receive insensitive comments from nondisabled people, receiving scathing comments from people who are also disabled deeply saddens me.

It is both unnecessary and counterproductive when it comes to making advancements for people with disabilities, be it medical or social. I’ve tried to look beyond hurtful words that accompany disagreement and at least express that I respect the commenter’s right to have his or her own opinion.

I’m slowly but surely learning when to let go of spiteful words and let it roll off my shoulders. But what I cannot fathom is why people within a population that already faces marginalization would speak so harshly to another person within that population.

Every day, people with disabilities around the world face senseless taunting, bullying, abuse and even murder – just for being who they are, for being “different.”

So why, when such horrible oppression already occurs, are people with disabilities adding fuel to the fire by fighting against other people with disabilities?

I would be silly to believe we should all hold hands and agree on every issue, because the world just doesn’t work that way. And that’s ok.

Even so, there are far too many attitudinal and social barriers that disabled people must deal with already. Why must cruelty and anger be perpetuated within our own community?

Please don’t think I’m presumptuous enough to compare myself to amazing, powerful activists or historical civil rights leaders, but I feel I can learn a lot from their actions.

When so many of these great figures faced cruelty from the outside coupled with dissent and division within their own communities, they remained strong and continued to advocate and work for change. This is what I plan to do. I’m passionate about disability rights advocacy. If other people with disabilities disagree with my perspectives or approach, I certainly cannot and do not hold that against them. I know that there’s no one right answer to all the issues faced by our community.

Disability is an incredibly complex part of a person’s life, and it’s simply not fair or possible for everyone who has a disability to be expected to feel and think in the same ways. Nonetheless, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to ask for respect when you try your best to give it -– particularly from people who most likely already know what it’s like to face some form discrimination or mistreatment.

I don’t share my views with the intent of hurting others who feel differently. I share them because I strongly want to see important conversations being held about disability rights and disability experiences. Society so often makes marginalized populations sit down and shut up, but it’s much worse when marginalized populations bring this upon ourselves by being unkind to one another.

I, for one, may be sitting down, but I don’t plan to shut up! I will continue to write and speak up for change, knowing full well that my way need not be the only way. And even when I may disagree with you, I pledge that so long as you show me respect, I will always, always respect your right to do the same.


Photo Credit: Lazybutt / CC BY-ND

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