Here are some things I would like people to understand about my girlfriend and her disability, and me, and our life together. There are some questions in here, too, because there's a lot of stuff I don't understand about not-yet-disabled people.
1. My girlfriend's legs don't work very well, but her eyes, ears, brain, and vocal cords work just fine. Please speak to her directly. I am not her interpreter.
2. I am also not her aide, keeper, or caretaker (if anything, she's mine). We help each other, because lovers and partners do that. Let me say that again: we help each other.
3. I'm not her sister or her kind helper or her friend. She is not my mom. We are lovers. Yes, people with disabilities have lovers.
4. Sometimes my girlfriend needs help, with a parcel or a heavy door or a steep hill. As do we all. If she needs help, she'll ask. As I said before, her vocal cords work great. Please don't just start "helping" without asking first.
5. Taking hold of someone's wheelchair and starting to push without asking is just as rude, weird, and scary as putting your hands on someone's back and shoving her down the street. Don't do it. Just don't.
6.It really sucks when you invite us some place and you have given absolutely no thought to whether it is accessible. That really makes me want to hit you. But I'm a pacifist, so I won't. Lucky you.
7. If you own a bookstore, restaurant, natural foods store, gym (!), or alternative healing center (!!) and your place of business has steps, you are losing the business of a lot of people. What the fuck is your problem? Please stop acting so fucking surprised when I ask you about your accessibility plan.
8. You can buy a portable ramp for a couple hundred bucks. That's all it takes to turn a building with one or two steps into a building that is accessible. Why don't you have one?
9. If no one has asked you about accessibility before, it's probably because they took one look at your establishment and realized there was no point. Maybe they've asked 500 times before and have gotten tired. That's not an excuse for you not to have a plan.
10. You "progressive," "alternative" people who have your offices, centers, and houses of worship in buildings that aren't accessible? Not so progressive, actually. There's a reason I never show up at your fucking meetings.
11. It's usually the funky, alternative, independent places that aren't accessible. That's why we shop at the soulless mall. That's why we shop at Whole Foods instead of the groovy natural foods store with the reggae music and the incense. That's right, funky business owner -- the mall is more radical than you are. Do you understand now why I think you're an asshole?
12. "It's a historic building, so we don't have to" is not an acceptable answer when I ask you why your business is not accessible. It doesn't get you off the hook. It just makes me think you're an asshole. I think a lot of people are assholes.
ETA: I can't believe I forgot to write this one, because it's actually the first one that came to mind:
13. She isn't "confined to a wheelchair" or "wheelchair bound." In fact, she gets out of her wheelchair quite frequently -- like every morning, when she gets in her car to drive to her job. That's right. You heard me.