Ableism and “Adulting”

I hate that word and that concept. This idea that you have to do certain things to be an “adult”, or that you’ve reached a higher level of “adulting” skills by doing things like purchasing a house, paying bills on time, getting a promotion, doing chores, scheduling appointments, etc.

These concepts are all ableist. There. I said it. If you use this terminology, you’re engaging in ableist behaviors. We’ve all done it, and honestly, it’s time to stop.

We’ve all had the posts, the memes come up in our news feeds:
“Cleaned the house today. #adulting”
“Scheduled an appointment today! #adulting”
“Just bought my first house! #adulting”
The list goes on and on.

Think about it. For a disabled person, some things that we consider “adulting” are difficult or impossible things for many of us to achieve. Many disabled individuals are on some kind of disability-based income and rely on social services to help, so the idea of “leveling up” or “adulting” by getting a career or a promotion or even purchasing a home are entirely out of our reach. Many of us struggle with just managing our disabilities, our illnesses, or even getting up in the morning. Many more of us look at able-bodied adults and wish that we had that ability, that drive, that level of energy, and are devastated that we don’t.

Take, for instance the “adulting” idea of scheduling a doctor’s appointment. I have some cognitive issues, and I’m constantly overwhelmed by stress. I also have a lot of doctor’s appointments that I have to try and remember to schedule. Often, my wife will help by scheduling my appointments or following up with them. I’ve had people comment that I’m an “adult” and should do these things myself. BUT with my disabilities, and my stress levels from my job, I often have to take my lunch breaks to deal with my physical needs, instead of scheduling or following up with an appointment. My wife doesn’t have the same physical disabilities that require her to take her lunch break to rest, calm her trauma, test blood sugars, manage medications, etc. So by taking on that small act, it allows me more time to take care of my body and relieves a great deal of stress.

When you insinuate that doing certain things without help is “adulting”, you’re suggesting that those of use that are disabled are dependents, burdens, or children. Sometimes we may even read that as we are worthless because we need help with basic tasks.

I will never be able to buy a home because I am strapped down with medical bills, and medication needs that total hundreds of dollars a month. On top of the financial burdens, I don’t have the energy to work a job that may require extended work days or take on multiple jobs. And I’m not the only one. I have many days that I struggle with my disability to the point that I am relatively inactive or need to rest for long periods. I WANT to be successful, but some days I have to measure success by whether or not I’m able to put on pants.

Please remember that those of us with disabilities are adults too, regardless of what our bodies or minds are able to do. Our needs, wants, wishes, and goals are valid and matter. We might need extra help to perform certain tasks, but that doesn’t make us less of an adult.

I know that so many aren’t trying to offend when they say they’re “adulting”. But imagine what your disabled friends and family feel when they can’t achieve the same goals simply because of their condition. Trust me, we didn’t ask to be disabled. Imagine how your disabled friend reads into you saying that you’re “adulting” when you get a promotion and then purchase a home or a new vehicle, and they’re stuck in their shitty apartment that they can barely pay for on their limited income. Depending on their disability, imagine what they see when you talk about “adulting” when they can’t even put on pants without assistance. Can’t get out of bed. Can’t leave their home. Can’t live without assistance.

Trust me when I say we often feel left out, overlooked, and treated like children. When we’re not. Many of us are going through physical limitations that you could not imagine. We have pain and fatigue that you will never experience. We have traumas that are sometimes unsurpassable.

If you take anything away from this post, please take away this. Be kind. Celebrate your success, we all want to see the fantastic things you can do (and we are genuinely happy for you). There is nothing wrong with you being successful. BUT please be MINDFUL of the way you word things and how you approach your posts and conversations. Even though we may not say anything, we see your posts, celebrate your success, and are hurt inside because we live in a world where being disabled means that we may never have the same success or even the same human rights as you.

This is how Baymax feels when you use the word “adulting”.

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