I just came out of a fascinating discussion with a health researcher who used to provide physical therapy support to a woman with a muscular condition that affected her mobility and her speech. Because of this support, the woman was able to work in an office. She told the therapist that the most exhausting aspect of her work day was getting people to see past her disability and interact with her as an individual. People made assumptions about her cognition based on her speech (a problem familiar to speakers of certain dialects), and she had to put in effort to challenge those assumptions and change attitudes.

So her mental burden included having to consider:

  • navigating around the mobility barriers in her environment,
  • the stigma of disability, and
  • the emotional labour needed to make those around her look past that stigma and feel comfortable about her disability.

Having to worry about making others comfortable around them is a common problem for people in all sorts of marginalized groups, who are already taxed with a higher-than-average mental load. Those of us in the dominant group can shoulder more of the responsibility by getting ourselves educated and doing our best to reach acceptance as early as we can.

Advertisements