Just Because The World Wasn’t Built For You Doesn’t Mean You Have To Change

Nobody is going to argue that being left-handed is easy. In ways both large and small, our society is built around a right-handed norm.

There are ways for left-handed people to adapt to a right-handed world when they need to. Some of them can be really small, but make a big difference. I remember how excited my then-wife was when she discovered gel pens that didn’t smear her words across the page. A small $2 pen made a huge change for her, but did not require anyone else to do anything. There are entire storefronts full of products specifically designed for lefties.

There are ways that the right-handed world can work with people who are left-handed. These can be more extensive, like having left-handed desks, scissors, kitchen implements, and power tools.

And then there’s what we used to do.

We used to tell lefties they were "bad," both by our words and our actions.

We used to force them to do things the "right handed" way, causing untold amounts of emotional harm, learning disorders, dyslexia, stuttering, and other disorders.

We used to force lefties to be someone they weren’t, because that was easier. It was more convenient.

There is a big difference between acknowledging limitations and giving people tools to overcome those limitations as they choose to — and forcing someone to conform.

The first acknowledges the humanity of the person.

The second — no matter how well it’s wrapped up in pretty language or "reformed techniques" — tells the person that they are "less than." Less important. Less worthy of time, attention, or effort.

Less convenient.

Unlearning ableism requires a fundamentally anti-capitalist change in perspective. Specifically, it necessitates that you believe in the inherent worth of human beings, regardless of someone’s social position or productive potential

In the late 20th century — about the time I was born — our society began to treat left-handed people as people. People that may have different needs, people that may need to have some special adaptations or tools in order to navigate the world as well as they might like, but people nonetheless.

A person’s worth should not be based on how "useful" or "convenient" they are to schools, employers, or parents.

This post is actually about autism, neurodivergence, and "Applied Behavior Analysis" (ABA) therapy and "Autism Speaks," which pushes the same mindset.

Embedded in ABA therapy is a viewpoint that autism must be "cured" and that autistic traits must always be minimized or eliminated for the convenience of allistic persons. This mindset — rather than one that empowers the autistic person to advocate for themselves and work with the rest of the world — implicitly tells autistic persons that they are "wrong."

In my lifetime society has finally stopped trying to force left-handed people to be "normal" for the convenience of others.

I hope that someday that same grace will be extended toward autistic and other neurodivergent persons.

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Featured Image by Elisa from Pixabay