Laying it Out: Preconceived Notions

Against a white background, a drawing of a person with long, curly hair, who have their arms crossed and eyebrows raised.

People with disabilities often find themselves negotiating a weird space where we are pressured to ‘act disabled‘ or ‘look disabled’.

Panel A: Picture of the author, Antara, with devil horns doodled on her head. Text: Hello again, this is Antara. Part angry feminist, part heart-turns-to-mush-when-I-see-dogs person, part prosthetic leg. Panel B: A picture of wheelchair. Next to it, there is an ‘equal to’ sign, and a drawing of sad man’s face with question marks around it. Text: Today I’m going to be telling you a little bit about the preconceived notions that nondisabled people have about us disabled folk. Panel C: A drawing of a woman with her arms crossed and eyebrows raised. Text: And also about how these preconceived notions affect our professional, social, and personal lives.

Panel A: A person holding up one hand and swearing ‘God promise!‘ Text: People with disabilities often find themselves negotiating a weird space where we are pressured to ‘act disabled‘ or ‘look disabled’. Panel B: A girl’s face looking confused. There are mathematical symbols all around her. Text: If we climb into the disabled compartment of a train, we must ‘show’ our disability to others so that we’re proven to not be frauds. Panel C: Drawing of dark glasses and a red and white stick. Text: For instance, someone with a locomotor disability must walk with a pronounced limp, someone with a visual impairment must carry a stick, and so on.

Panel A: A drawing of a person wearing a formal shirt. There is a halo above his head. Text: If you have a disability and you’re going for a job interview, you have to work twice as hard to convince your potential employer that you WILL be reliable. Panel B: Three check boxes, all with green ticks inside them and a ‘YES!’ beside them. Text: You WILL stick to the leave policy, you WILL come to work on time, and you WILL not let your disability get in the way of your work. (Even if it means holding your bladder all day because this company doesn’t have a toilet for your needs.) Panel C: The same person from top panel with their top button undone, looking sad. Text: Facing low-key (when you’re lucky) discrimination and doubt from potential employers is not only demotivating, but financially, socially, and personally harmful to people with disabilities.

Panel A: Drawing of the Scream emoji (hands on their face and screaming) Text: Small talk is the creation of the devil for anybody. But for PwDs, it’s a special kind of hell, where strangers sometimes ask us in-depth questions about our disability. Panel B: Drawing of a bottle of beer with a sign above it that says ‘For those over 21 years + Nondisabled only!’ Text: Common assumptions include that the disabled don’t travel unescorted, don’t commute by public transport, don’t go out just to have fun, and DEFINITELY don’t drink alcohol! Panel C: A woman drinking alcohol surrounded by camera flashes (like paparazzi). Her eyes are wide and she looks shocked. Text: When people find out that people with disabilities, in fact, love these things just as much as anyone else, it usually elicits a strange reaction. (Revelation: drinking beer makes me an inspiration!)

Panel A: Image of a wheelchair balancing on a rope on one wheel. Text: While talking to others about our disabilities, we have to walk a tightrope to be able to speak about our grievances, but not so much that we’ll be seen as ‘whiners’. Panel B: Drawing of a woman raising an amputated hand saying ‘Me Too‘. Text: Unlike discourses of feminism or class, which more people can relate to, there is often only one person (or fewer) in a social group who can speak about disability-related discrimination. Panel C: Same woman as the above panel with a tape over her mouth. Text: This might often make it seem like the only thing that we like talking about is our disability. Not true! There’s obviously a lot more to us, but this is something that we want to share, and that we want you to understand.

Panel A: Picture of a mic and a speaker set. The mic tells the speaker, ‘I need you!’ Text: People with disabilities need to converse with the able-bodied to sensitise you to our problems, but we can’t do this without your support. The struggle is real! Panel B: Speaker blaring loudly — music symbols are coming out of it. Text: Much like men need to be allies to women in the feminist fight, nondisabled people need to make a special effort to amplify the voices of the disabled. But how can you begin? Panel C: Picture of the mic and speaker again. This time, the speaker tells the mic: ‘No, I need YOU!’ Text: The next time a disabled person is talking, don’t roll your eyes, or shush them, or try to correct them about their own experiences. Try to listen. Read more. Take off the blinkers.

Read the first part of Antara’s comic series here.

Antara is a freelance writer and illustrator. In her spare time, she backpacks, illustrates, and leaves feminist comments on Facebook posts.