This week’s passage by the U.S. House of Representatives of an Affordable Health Care Act that imperils the health and wellbeing of millions of Americans discouraged me greatly. “How can they do that?” I along with many other disability advocates asked. Do they really think nobody will die? Do they really think people with disabilities being forced back into institutions is okay? Don’t they have friends or family members who will lose access to health care?

I wish more decision-makers would consider their privileges before formulating legislation like the AHCA. For example, “The Invisible Backpack of Able-Bodied Privilege Checklist” https://exposingableism.wordpress.com/2009/10/12/the-invisible-backpack-of-able-bodied-privilege-checklist/ by Melissa Graham published on October 12, 2009 is a place to start. There are a couple of these lists online, but I like hers the best. Here are just three of her twenty-one points:

  1. I can, if I wish, arrange to attend social events without worrying if they are accessible to me.
  2. If I am in the company of people that make me uncomfortable, I can easily choose to move elsewhere.
  3. I can easily find housing that is accessible to me, with no barriers to my mobility.

As a blind person, I’d point out slightly different points of privilege that the sighted have. For example, sighted people can glance in a mirror and be reasonably sure they’re not walking out of the house with a spot on their shirt and sighted people can read the comics by themselves. But who can make our representatives think about the privileged positions they are in as mostly able-bodied, well off consumers with choices in health care and other arenas of life?

Attempts to make our disabled realities visible like the Twitter campaign #IAmAPreExistingCondition and the Live On campaign deserve highlighting. The Disability Rights Center and Not Dead Yet have started a “Live On” campaign www.liveon.net to highlight the full lives people with various disabilities can have. I hope five years from now that the options for full lives will still be there for poor people with major disabilities.

I am aware I as a middle class woman in the 21st century in the richest country in the world also have many privileges. I have the basics like food, water, shelter, health care and safety covered. It makes me grateful and anxious to do what I can to make sure all Americans have them. So I lobby on and try not to sink in to despair.

Right on cue comes World Laughter Day on the first Sunday in May. According to Wikipedia, “The first celebration was on January 10, 1998, in Mumbai, India and was arranged by Dr. Madan Kataria, founder of the worldwide Laughter Yoga movement. Laughter is a positive and powerful emotion that has all the ingredients required for individuals to change themselves and to change the world in a peaceful and positive way.” My best laugh for the week occurred as I was standing in the backyard trying to get my guide dog to focus on answering the call of nature before we needed to go to a long meeting. The teenage boy next door was reluctantly practicing his trumpet. The guide dog circled and ultimately dumped to the tune of “When the Saints Go Marching In”. March on!

If that anecdote didn’t make you smile, go to your library and request this new book The Totally Unscientific Study of the Search for Human Happiness by Paula Poundstone.

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