Will Sci-Fi Ever Include Disabled People?
Disabled people: Will abled people ever fully include us in their imagination of the future? Let’s consider that.
Here’s the thing. Abled people look at us disabled people and feel their heart strings tug. “I don’t want to be disabled!” they scream internally. “I can’t imagine not being able to propel myself forward with standard bipedal motion!” or “I would absolutely immediately rather die than be Autistic, because my brain would function so completely differently than the way it does now!”
The second one gives me such pause, because they’re SO CLOSE to a revelation. You’re right, it would be a tragedy to you if you went to bed neurotypical and woke up Autistic.
It would also be a tragedy for me if I went to bed Autistic and woke up neurotypical. What would I even do? Sit remarkably still at my desk while maintaining interest in something for a socially acceptable length of time? Ew. No thanks.
See, I can understand the idea that a radical change to how you live your life can be tragic. I can understand why a fully ambulatory person might not want to suddenly benefit from a wheelchair. That’s a drastic change in how you live your life, and it’s no secret that society isn’t all that accommodating to wheelchair users. I can understand why you’d feel that your wheelchair was limiting you.
Consider the following:
If you were an ambulatory person who woke up tomorrow and were suddenly not able to walk, you’d do a hell of a lot better as a disabled person who can benefit from a wheelchair than a literal dead person who can’t do anything, because they are dead.
Whoa Rosalind, why are we talking death? Damn, I don’t know, but the ableds started it. I can’t tell you how much I’ve heard the rhetoric of “dead is better than disabled”. It’s rarely said in that phrasing, but hoo boy is it implied OFTEN to disabled people. Some hack claimed that the MMR vaccine causes autism? Measles can be deadly. There are people out there doing risk-benefit analyses and coming to the conclusion that dead is better than Autistic. I think I’m fair in my assertion that society does not favor disabled lives.
Which brings me to my point. What’s our place in the future? If ableds want to strive for a utopia, why would they want invaluable lives mixed in with the Normal People™?
Oh boy it’s time to be a pessimist: They aren’t going to make us a place on the bridge of the starship to the future.
Quite frankly, I don’t think abled folks are ever going to actively want us for our disabilities. Yes, yes, we can discuss how rising tides lift all boats, or how there are ways to make accessibility accommodations that make existence better for everyone (who actually LIKES staircases?). I guarantee that no matter how much pro-social messaging we put out, there will always be one jerk who is like “But it’s so much cheaper or easier or more aesthetic to make this doorway too small for a wheelchair to fit through” even though they know that they have wheelchair-using clientele.
The solution is never gonna be to convince the ableds to let us into their stair-stepped utopia. The solution is to refuse to die while building our own future.
They want to build holographic sports programs that make people prone to motion sickness puke? Fine. They want to find a way to detect certain disabilities in-utero so they can prevent our birth? That’s less fine. Don’t let them do that, fellow and future disabled people.
(by the way, I wrote a duology of short stories where the ableds did mostly succeed in preventing Autistic people from existing. If you want to read that book of resistance against all odds, you can buy it on Amazon, or even get it for free by signing up for my newsletter on my home page)
The moral of this story is that we’re never going to get more than table scraps from the abled people who look to the future… but that’s fine, because we can look and touch and otherwise sense the future before us, and we can make our own future something that’s utopian for us. We can write our own sci-fi, paint our own picture of the world we want, sing the songs we want to hear. That’s the takeaway. I’m not going to tell you what disability science fiction definitively looks like, because that’s something that each disabled person discovers and decides for themself.
We just have to survive. So if you want an unsolicited bit of advice: You don’t have to make yourself pleasant and pliant for the ableds. Don’t be a dainty little flower begging to be planted in their garden; be a weed so tenacious that they give up on removing you. And then, bloom.