I Don’t Think of You As…
“I don’t think of you as blind / visually impaired.”
“I don’t think of you as deaf / hard of hearing.”
“I don’t think of you as disabled.”
I’m sure you’ve heard something like this from your well‐meaning, non‐disabled friends at one time or another. However, instead of being comforting, such phrases remove a large part of your personal identity as a disabled person in an attempt to make non-disabled people feel more comfortable when confronted with your limitations.
When someone says “I don’t think of you as…”, what they mean is “You’re not like those other…”. You’ll often hear this when confronting them about their use of ableist or derogatory language. They’d much rather pretend that you don’t have a disability instead of confronting their biases towards the disabled.
Other times, it’s used when your friends don’t think consider your disability when inviting you to an event and have to deal with the fact that you can’t participate due to a lack of accessibility.
The use of “I don’t think of you as…” is particularly frustrating here because it shows a distinct lack of regard for you as a complete person. They’ve decided that it’s better to compartmentalize and ignore the parts of you that make them uncomfortable instead of confronting that discomfort until it dissipates.
I am a disabled person who says “I think of you as…” so that I make sure to find and create spaces where my disabled friends can feel welcome and comfortable.
When your friends say “I don’t think of you as…”, what they really mean is “I don’t think of you.”