Yes, I haven’t posted for a couple months and no, I don’t mind. Being able to simply survive during a pandemic is a success in it’s own right, let alone being able to survive with CRPS in a pandemic. I am also a student and uh, did you know I have CRPS? Ugh. Okay but seriously I am here to break my streak of silence to talk about something that has been on my mind. Something that is making a lot of disabled people furious right now.
Let me get this straight.
Disabled people who have *legitimate* medical reasons for not being able to wear a mask are continually working hard to work through their trauma, phobias, asthma and more to be able to wear a mask when they go out.
Yet so many abled and healthy people out there can’t be bothered to put on a mask when there is no actual physical or mental issue to prevent them from doing so?
This is how a society rooted in systemic ableism functions. When a relatively small gesture could save disabled lives, and not just a few extremists but many people choose not to do it. In fact, they go so far as to protest against it. I wonder, do the people at these anti-mask protests know any disabled or chronically ill folks? Does anyone living in Canada not have at least one connection to a chronically ill person? What message does this send, when they protest wearing masks? How does it make us feel?
We all have our own distinct privileges and it’s a life long learning process to recognize them and use them to lessen the privilege gaps for others. So how do we live in a society where something like the anti mask movement can gain so much popularity? How is systemic and individual ableism *this* bad? (Don’t answer that. I know, I know, this is nothing new.)
Disabled people are out there pushing themselves through serious anxiety, Cystic Fibrosis, or PTSD (to name a few) just so they can wear a mask. Take Treachers Syndrome or Trigeminal Neuralgia, where it is quite physically impossible to wear a mask, these people are still finding a way. People are innovating, finding other solutions like face shields for these situations. Disabled people, luckily, have lifetimes of experience in innovation. This doesn’t mean it is easy though. Forcing boundaries this far is almost never medically advisable but it is the lesser of two evils right now. Pushing that far to mask up is keeping themselves safe, but also keeping EVERYONE safe. That is the point. For abled and healthy people, wearing a mask is the least they can do, and for some disabled people, it is the most they can do but they are still doing it.
Once again with the pandemic, the horrible irony is that if there comes a time where there is a shortage of ventilators or hospital beds, guess who is more likely to be treated? The abled and healthy people. The ones arguably working the hardest have the most to lose here.
I really feel for those who legitimately can’t wear a mask right now, because at this point it would be really hard to describe to others why you can’t and not be seen as a “faker”. Which brings me to the next point… the anti mask movement and those faking disabilities or medical reasons as an excuse are perpetuating the faking myth of disability. This is an unfortunately common trope where it is assumed that one would fake a disability to get the “perks” (oh, those sweet sweet perks) like a parking spot. When anti maskers are faking disabilities to say that they don’t need a mask, it delegitimizes actual disabled people and their actual needs. This is contributing to the trope and making it ever more common and in turn, ever more harmful.
So dear reader, if you aren’t angry about the anti-mask movement right now, you haven’t been paying attention. If you have trouble wearing masks and you are fighting to find solutions, thank you, your efforts are not going unnoticed. If you have no legitimate reason not to wear a mask? JUST WEAR A MASK. It is the absolute least you can do.