Most people know someone who is disabled, whether they realize it or not. Some of those who know a disabled person start making assumptions and judgments of other disabled people. If their mentally disabled friend or family member can work part-time, then anyone can. If their blind friend or family member can work part-time or full-time, then anyone can. Every disabled person is suddenly the same in their mind. Any disabled person who “refuses” to work becomes a lazy, no-good loser who is out to take money away from those who actually need it. (Every person’s definition of who actually needs the money is different, as well.) It isn’t fair, but even more importantly, it isn’t right. To assume that because a person is disabled that they must fit some cookie cutter image for disability that you have in your head is just wrong.
I’m on disability and I get on the internet all the time. This makes some people assume that I can work, but choose not to do so. This isn’t true. I can get on the internet to talk to friends (sometimes) or to play games (sometimes) or to goof off (sometimes) or make graphics (sometimes), but that doesn’t mean that I have the ability to work with any level of reliability. There are days when I can play games for hours. There are days when I can stay up on the internet for 30 hours, sleep 15, get back on for 36, sleep for 20. Then there are days when I can’t get on at all. There are days when I can’t talk to other people because that stresses me out. There are days when I can’t play games because that stresses me out. There are days when I can’t turn on my computer because it is too much for me. And there are days when my physical problems overpower my mental ones and doing anything becomes an actual physical struggle. Everything that I do for fun on the internet can, without any warning, become too much for me.
A great example of how things can become too stressful is the guidework at ChaCha. I would work for 2 or 3 hours on there for about 3 days, then I would want to lock myself in a dark room away from the world because I would just feel so agitated. Another is when I’m making icons, which is something I like to do, and it triggers that OCD part of me that has to do five of everything or multiples of five for everything. I end up staying up for a day and a half because I haven’t hit a particular multiple of five. Or when I’m on Facebook, I never chat. I also don’t use IM-ing services because even though I love communicating with friends, I can’t handle the stress of full-blown conversations. I get the same kinds of panic attacks when IM-ing that I get when I leave the house or when I’m in a situation where I know that I am expected to interact.
Then, there’s the physical aspect to consider. Most of the time, I’m just on the internet to stay awake. If I don’t have something actively engaging my brain, I will fall asleep. This is something that I have learned over the past few years. Watching television doesn’t cut it. Reading books and getting on the internet work best. I’m not on the internet just to waste taxpayer money. I’m on the internet so that I don’t sleep my whole life away.
People assume that because I’m on disability, I should be a total invalid. Since I’m not, it makes them think I must be gaming the system. It doesn’t work that way. I’ve proven to the government (several times) that I am disabled. I let them look at my entire medical and mental health record. Every time I fill out a review form, I say that it’s okay for them to see if I’m actually still suffering from the same problems. They always determine that, guess what, I’m disabled. That means that according to doctors and according to a bureaucracy (that has no problem with taking away benefits, by the way), I am disabled.
Of course, none of that matters to people who are going to judge me or others like me for being on disability. Some people are just stubborn/set in their ways, and that’s really quite sad when you think about it.