I am autistic and have been suffering for almost 20 years with an invisible but incredibly debilitating host of physical conditions. Though once I lost a shitload of weight because I have had literally no appetite for two years and started falling over because of my neurological symptoms things became a little more visible. But still by looking at me I appear to be a healthy, typical woman in my 30's.
I have been repeatedly, consistently told that there is nothing wrong with me. My ex would not allow me to take care of myself properly, did not believe there was anything wrong with me and drove me to stay in high-output, fast-paced, stressful environments. Even people who admittedly have their own disabilities sometimes do not believe that I am disabled. I have had many conversations with people with mental and physical disabilities in which my autism, my physical limitations and my pain were questioned. I have had people tell me to my face that I really can do the things that I say that I can't do. A friend came to my house to visit when I was at the height of my illness in 2016 and was obviously outwardly disappointed in how messy my house was. He knew that I had stopped working a few months before due to illness. He said conspiratorially that he "got it, but come on, you can do the dishes." As if he "understood" that I was just faking being as sick and in pain as I was so that I didn't have to work that year, but that I really could do more than I represented I could and should at least be taking care of my house.
And please, I don't even want to get started on how many doctors have dismissed me, told me there was nothing wrong with me, told me I was just depressed, told me it was all in my head, told me "welcome to motherhood," told me "welcome to adulthood," told me "welcome to being a woman..." MOTHERFUCKERS with this PATRONIZING BULLSHIT
I used a wheelchair in Wal Mart for the first time the other day and an old lady gave me the rudest stank eye ever as she passed me. This type of thing is why I waited so long to start using my cane and why I hadn't used a wheelchair yet until then. I am considering making a sign to hang off the back of wheelchairs that I use that says, "Yes I AM disabled, but thank you for thinking I look young and pretty!" I need these things. I can't go grocery shopping without being in extreme agony - yes, PHYSICAL AGONY - the entire time, and then I have to spend hours or even days resting and recovering. Yes I CAN do it standing up, but I will have SO MUCH to pay for it if I do... I SHOULD sit down to do it. I can get so much more done both during the activity and afterwards if I sit. And I shouldn't have to worry about being harrassed if I do! And if I happen to stand up out of my wheelchair to get something off a shelf or get into the car, I shouldn't have to worry about people calling me a faker!
Not everyone in a wheelchair can't walk.
I absolutely think that ableism is pervasive. I think it is something that most people don't even think about, because most people don't rely on accessibility aids, and most people are neurotypical. Most people don't even understand that these things are issues at all. They don't understand that certain people have limits on what they can physically and mentally do, or that they need to operate within a special set of parameters to be able to do the same things.
The thing that gets me the most, though, is the thought that people seem to have that they can look at someone and determine if they have a disability. YOU CAN'T. The only thing that makes it easier to accept the old lady in the wheelchair than it is to accept me in a wheelchair is that she is old and wrinkly and I am not. Otherwise there is NO DIFFERENCE. In cased you missed it, a lot of old wrinkly people can walk just fine too!