Dear non-disabled people, your New Year’s resolutions

Dear non-disabled people,

2022 is upon us, and it’s time for arbitrary resolutions. We all know no one ever keeps New Year’s resolutions, so, here are some more for you also not to keep. Non-disabled people, you haven’t kept these up ‘til now; please don’t fail my expectations this year.

A list of New Year’s resolutions curated just for you, non-disabled people. All nicely typed up for you. After all, we all know how much you love things to be nice and tidy:1. Stop using us as disability porn.

Despite your misinformed perceptions, disabled people do not live in aquariums, existing for your sole contemplation. Your life is not better or worse than ours. So, the next time you clutch your pearls and gasp at the sight of a disabled person, certain their life must be far worse than yours, release those pearls and find a hobby that does not involve us.2. Stop using the term special needs.

Yeah, I’m talking to you, teachers and parents. No disabled person ever referred to themselves as special needs. Remove it from your lexicon. It does not soften the blow of disability, since there’s nothing to soften. It’s insulting, offensive and just cringe-worthy. If you’re scratching your head, just know this: Disability is not a bad word.3. Stop assimilating us.

Disabled people do not need to look, act or function like non-disabled people. Just as we all don’t need to have the same hair color or skin color or body types, nor do we all need the same abilities. We do not need to fit into your narrow, rigid version of existing. You need to make room for us and all our wonderful, beautiful, unique abilities. We are not the square peg, you are.4. Stop forcing your assistance on us.

No, I did not ask for your help, so, no, I will not be grateful for the good deed I didn’t ask for and therefore did not need. See resolution one, but disabled people are not your charitable causes just waiting for a helpful non-disabled hand to lift us out of our poor, pitiful, miserable existence. I know you want us dependent on you so your warped world view is fixed, but sorry, I will not smile at unsolicited help. Please don’t be surprised if I bite when your unwarranted hand is bit.5. Stop asking dumb-ass questions and making ignorant comments.

If you find a question or comment bubbling up in your mouth towards a disabled person, stop and ask yourself this first: Would I ask or say this to a non-disabled person? If your answer is no, then shut your damn mouth and sit down.6. Stop denying ableism.

If any of this is making you uncomfortable, then you’ve yet to deal with your ableism. If you’re getting defensive and huffy, you really haven’t confronted your ableism. If none of this gives you pause and then you don’t immediately reflect then start taking steps to learn and grow and do better, fuck off and make an exit from my life.

There you go, New Year’s resolutions pre-packaged for non-disabled people. It’s your choice what you do with them. But know that as we move by you, living our lives in spite of your ableism, you continue to see us only as disabled bodies. This ableism perpetuates discriminatory policies and upholds ableist systems that continue to hold disabled people back. It is not our disability creating obstacles and making life challenging, it’s your ableism and refusal to confront ableism that continues to box disabled people in.

By Imperfection

Bridgit Kuenning-Pollpeter is a mom and writer from Omaha, Nebraska but recently relocated to Urbandale, IA. When she’s not chasing children, picking up messes or reorganizing the house, she enjoys yoga or reading to relax. In her spare time (A.K.A. her dreams) she’s a Broadway star. Kuenning-Pollpeter is a freelance marketer during the day, a creative writer at night. Her work has appeared in the Brevity blog, The Omaha World Herald, 13th Floor, Misbehaving Nebraskans, Hippocampus, Emerging Nebraska Writers and Random Sample Review. She has her BFA and MFA in writing from the University of Nebraska Omaha. Her essay “The Body” was a McKenna Fellowship finalist, and her essay “Imperfection” was a 2020 Best of the Net Nominee. She is blind and writes frequently about disability. She’s working on a memoir about the disabled feminine experience. With the kids though, expect it in stores in about a decade.

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