Previously in this series, I talked about how abuse and finances affect our ability to form romantic relationships, completely unrelated to any social differences caused by our autism. There are two other areas I want to discuss – transportation and daily living assistance in today’s post, and, in the last post, the idea that we aren’t romantic or sexual beings – and that may be the cause of a lot of these issues.
Our living environments and daily living supports – the very things that are supposed to allow us to take part in the community (assuming we’re outside of a locked institution, which is another significant issue when we’re not) are barriers to our participation in the community.
The first problem with services was alluded to in part 2 of this series, when I talked about living accommodations not always allowing a boyfriend or girlfriend from “benefiting” from someone else’s subsidized living situation. With housing, even getting married in some cases will not allow the spouses to legally live with each other in a house that one spouse owns (at least owns in the same sense as most other American’s “own” their home: with their mortgage). But it extends beyond housing.
For instance, if someone needs a personal attendant to cook and shop, what happens when they want that personal attendant to cook and shop for them and their girlfriend, for a special meal? I suspect many personal attendants would so so without concern, but I also suspect most people’s funding sources for their attendants don’t recognize “feed the girlfriend during a special meal” as something intended to be funded. Yet why shouldn’t a disabled man be able to have a special home-cooked meal with his girlfriend at home? Isn’t this part of being in the community (in this case, a small, intimate community)?
Transportation is equally an issue. “Visiting the girlfriend for an evening” is not a task that is typically funded. Sure, going to work, school, therapy, or medical appointments is acceptable – that’s what is funded. For many disabled people in the US, some form of public transit is their primary transit. Assuming that their house is well served by local bus service (transit agencies don’t need to offer accessible transit if someone doesn’t live near a bus stop), their significant other better also live near a bus stop! And, not only that, it better be served by local buses during the hours that the disabled rider would like to visit (transit agencies also don’t need to provide accessible transit outside of the hours they serve the local bus stops). Of course the local transit agency typically plans stops and schedules for ridership numbers – that means commuters are well served, but someone visiting from one suburb to another late on a Saturday night is not a significant concern for the transit agency to plan routes to accommodate these needs.
Sure, there’s taxis. But going back to someone on SSI making slightly more than $8,000 a year, a $40 taxi ride is asking a lot (in fact, 20 of those rides and the person has used 10% of their entire yearly income).
A lot of the problems above come down to funding and our society’s desire to prevent “freeloading” even when such measures keep people from living their lives fully. That also speaks to the value of disabled people’s’ lives in the eyes of society. It’s more important to ensure nobody claims disability benefits who isn’t disabled than it is to ensure that a disabled person can have a life!
Yet if I’m disabled and have staff to help me with daily living, it should be for my full daily living. I’m not asking for special rights or any of that nonsense – I’m asking for us to have the right to take our S.O. home for a nice meal and movie. I’m asking for the right to visit our S.O. in her home, even if it takes place after the commuters have already returned home.
Sadly, I see a lot of the battle for funding based only on what is necessary for education, work, health care, and therapy. Nobody seems to actually care about personal relationships – despite the fact that most people would rate their personal relationships as the most important things in their lives. Our relationships just aren’t worth as much I suppose.