I saw a picture on Facebook today. It was a disabled parking sign that said “Parking for disabled persons. Not for fat people. You should have a parking spot 3 miles away and be required to do jumping jacks all the way to the store.” It didn’t look photoshopped but I hope that it was. What I want to talk about is the discussion around it.
To my great joy many of the people on the FB thread were calling this the bullshit that it was. Others seemed to divide fat people with disabilities into two groups (I want to be clear that this has nothing to do with actual fat people with disabilities, this is how people were discussing them) so I’ll frame my discussion from that perspective.
The first group, as they defined it, were people whose disability is unrelated to, or the cause of, their fat. Perhaps they have a disease, or had an accident, or they started to have mobility trouble and then got fat. This group has something specific to point to as the cause of their disability that is very specifically separate from their body size. Most of the people in the conversation seem to be in agreement that these disabled fat people should not be required to do three miles of calisthenics in order to deserve to shop, though many of them also wanted to point out that – based on absolutely no information or evidence – these people do not comprise the majority of fat disabled people, and they want us to know that there’s still “no excuse” for being fat.
The other group are fat disabled people who have nothing that they can “prove” made them disabled that isn’t related to their fat. By the logic of people who want to punish disabled people for being disabled, these people’s obesity is their fault, thus their disability is their fault, thus they don’t deserve the same accommodations that other disabled people get.
The idea that people should have to pass some kind of test to prove that their disability isn’t “their fault” in order to be accommodated is absolutely horrifying. For one thing, who gets to be the decider? If someone was disabled because they were driving drunk do they get a parking spot? What if they fell mountain climbing or blew out their knees running (or doing jumping jacks for three miles trying not to be fat)? I hope the obvious truth here is that it shouldn’t matter – people with disabilities should be accommodated, not interrogated.
Bottom line: Specific to this situation – the idea that you know more about a person’s disability based on their body size is ridiculous and one of many types of bigotry faced by fat people who also have disabilities. In general – how dare anybody think that they are entitled to know the source of someone’s disability, let alone that they should get to judge it as worthy or unworthy of a parking space or any other accommodation. As far as I’m concerned the entire discussion about accommodations for people with disabilities should revolve around the best ways to accommodate the most people possible from a place that is fiercely anti-shame, driven by the desires of people with disabilities. The idea of “fault” should never, ever come up.
Sadly we are not the jackass whisperer so we can’t stop people from posting this kind of drivel, but we can work hard to not be part of the problem, to educate ourselves and be intersectional in our activism, and to speak up and speak out against it.
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