culture & community

Disabled People are Normal People; Not Zoo Attractions

by Meghan — April 30, 2019
Tiger in a dungeon with a barred window. In reference to disabled people as a zoo attraction

Disabled people are not zoo attractions. And it’s certainly not headline news when your best friend pushes the wheelchair.

Disabled people are normal people.

The title of this post should seem like an obvious statement but in my experience not enough people know that, it should be simple. People are people, period. It’s not simple to the world at large though.

I know this because people look at me with utter shock as I do normal things. It happens ALL the time.

I could be doing something as mundane as buying my preferred junk foods at Walmart, or ordering food and drinks for a girls night with my bestie, and almost every time they will look to my BFF Aubri for confirmation on my choices.

It’s almost as if my wheelchair negates my ability to make sound choices or be even remotely normal.

It is beyond aggravating and borders on dehumanizing when the cashier working at Jack in the Box has to double check your taco order with your attendant.

And that, in and of itself, is bad enough but then after my busy day doing daily errands when I just so happen to run across an article on Facebook about Selma Blair that puts that disparity on a much more glaring stage. It only stands to remind you that ableism spares no one and is rampant.

I love Selma Blair… I’ll circle back around to her in a bit. The content of the article and the way it’s presented is what pisses me off. The title, clearly meant to be click bait, reads, “Sarah Michelle Gellar Pushes Best Friend Selma Blair’s Wheelchair at Disneyland.” [The original article has since disappeared. See more tasteful article here.]


Disabled people are normal people we do normal things.

Disabled people go to theme parks, and yes, nine times out of ten we use wheelchairs in crowded, busy, places, especially when we have illnesses or conditions that effect our gross motor skills and balance. (We even use the occasional line jump/fast pass. Disability perk! Sorry, not sorry.)

The way this article is headlined leads the reader to believe that her health is declining or that Sarah Michelle Gellar is the best friend ever for doing something so simple my three year old nephew could do it.

How do we change the narrative so that the world sees normal every day humanity rather being made to feel as though you are a zoo attraction?

How do we get people to focus on the fact that Ms. Blair probably helped more people than she knows by being able to say I am disabled without shame, or how she made people feel represented while walking using a cane as a very stylish adaptive aide. She’s giving people something they can relate too… though I’m not sure the world can see that, but I do.

So rather than seeing zoo attractions where there is normalcy, let’s hope the world can one day look at me buying groceries or ordering food and shrug. And maybe one day Selma Blair can just go to Disneyland with her best friend and no one will care.

I’m unsure what, if anything, will ever truly fix ableism but like any other problem the first step in correcting any problem is recognizing there is one. The fact that multiple online news outlets covered someone going to a theme park is boring. The fact that they used her disability to spice it up is a problem.

We should fix it.

Realizing ableist bias is at least a step in a more enlightened direction. I’m choosing to believe that’s why the article that set me off is seemingly no longer available. That’s just the optimist in me.

*image provided by pixabay. Photography by user Piro4D

You Might Also Like