Storify: Disability Access and Pre-Peeled Oranges

Storify is shutting down in May and has informed users that we have to migrate our content elsewhere if we wish to save it. This is one of my old threads.

Peeled Oranges in Plastic Containers: A Disability Product

[Trigger Warnings: Disability, Mention of Partner Abuse and Queer Closeting]

I'd like to talk about disability accessible items. One of the things that we need to establish up-front is that accessibility items pretty much always leave a footprint. Wheelchairs aren't biodegradable. Ramps, canes, grabbers. All of these have an environmental cost.

They also have a production cost. It costs money to produce these. Companies try to expand the sales base to recoup costs. It's at the expansion point-- which often means the difference between profit or not-- that able liberals tend to get involved. In my experience this discussion goes like this:

Step 1: "My god, such waste for lazy people!" the abled people cry. "Why can't they just [walk, peel, wrap up, shower themselves, etc.]

Step 2: A person points out that the item is accessibility product. This is met with sneers. "That's clearly not their intended audience!" the person says, oblivious to the fact that this was a disability product and is at most being expanded to a broader audience in order to recoup costs or draw in a larger demographic of disabled people (many of whom are also elderly).

Step 3: From there, the abled person might concede that accessibility is a nice "side-effect" but that the larger footprint problem is more important. The thing is, these same people aren't going after #WheresRey tags to lecture about the footprint of kids toys. They don't go after people buying plastic Funko Pop dolls. They go after accessibility products.

By continuing to pound on environmental impact for accessibility products, abled folks convey that accessibility is a step too far and costs us too much. Please don't do that? There is plenty of over-consumption for you to focus on! Believe me, you're not about to "run out". Any time you see a "so lazy!" product you want to dig at, 99.9% of the time it's an accessible item for someone. Feel free to go after adults buying novelty R2D2 robots or literally anyone else?

Disabled people get treated as a "burden" enough. It is draining, tiring, painful to continually be treated like a wrongful drain on Mother Earth because we're disabled. In addition to the drain we often feel we are on families, employers, etc. We exist. We take up space. We buy pre-peeled oranges and wear snuggies and those "ugly" plastic shoes and have grabbers to pull up our socks.

TL;DR: Every time you point a finger at a product, you're choosing NOT to point at something else that isn't a disability item. 90% of products by and for able-bodied people are out there for you to point at instead. Go with mother goddess on that

Something else I want to add: accessibility is a feminist issue in more ways than one. Many disabled people feel they have to marry because a live-in caretaker is not-negotiable for us. Many disabled people feel they must stay with an abusive partner/parent because they can't live without a caretaker. Many disabled people feel they must stay closeted about their queerness because they can't lose their caretaker.

Being able to eat an orange or open a jar might not seem much to you, but it can mean the difference between staying with abuse or not, between feeling like you can leave and still take care of yourself. Knowing you can live alone and still eat food is so important. I'm not exaggerating: my abusive [ex-]husband was angry at me when I bought a rubber jar opener. My abuser explicitly accused me of planning to leave him when I bought a jar opener for myself. He knew I was looking for ways to exist without him. So it's not enough to just say that disabled people should "get someone else to peel their oranges" for the good of Mother Earth. We are people and deserve autonomy.

I see people saying "well, they should get an employee to peel it for them!"  That is literally what this is: oranges peeled by employees. Pre-register, because of sanitary reasons. Without being asked, for reasons of convenience (both to the shopper and to the employees). Wanting to force disabled people to seek out someone to peel for them "on demand" costs us time and spoons and is nothing more than puritanical punishment for being disabled.

I'm not asking you to give up environmental justice. I am asking you to aim your efforts at non-accessibility items. Especially not when we're talking about pre-chopped/peeled food.

Cherry on the end of this viral thread: my mom has mild arthritis in her hands. I told her this morning about going viral. Her first words: "Oh, gosh, are those oranges available around here?! I have to ask your father to peel them for me! That would be so much nicer." Yeah, I didn't know that. Wow. So today we learned that even people who feel comfortable with YOUR disability may not talk about their OWN. Respect.

The reason certain liberals scoff at the idea that a store would accommodate us is because they, the liberals never would. "No store would ever sell special goods to the elderly/disabled" tells me that YOU certainly never would. *shrug*

One more piece of context I think people are missing: oranges-in-boxes aren't the only food sold in plastic. Those little plastic food boxes are all over my market. They hold meat, potatoes, salsa, mac'n'cheese, etc. from the service bar.  If you object to the plastic boxes themselves, I question why you started with oranges: the one product only disabled people need, rather than with the products able-bodied people also consume.

Meanwhile, I see no one going after the shelves of the exact same plastic boxes sold with mac'n'cheese. Not that I want people to go after the mac'n'cheese! Do not police food access! But my point is about the focus here. Think, please. Alright. *deep breath* Since I'm now "That Orange Girl", we might as well do this.

Oranges are sold in plastic tubs. Let's talk about the plastic we're not talking about.

Macaroni Salad. Rows and rows at your local WalMart deli.

Guacamole. Sold in tubs, often made on site.

Tofu. Plastic tubs for the plastic god.

Mashed potatoes, in dozens of flavors, all in plastic tubs.

Hummus, credit @DreddByDawn.

Salsa in a plastic tub, often made on site.

Macaroni and cheese, sold in plastic.

French onion dip in plastic, credit @lainasparetime.

Cream cheese spread, credit @lainasparetime.

Nut butters, credit @lainasparetime.

Butter and margarine spreads, credit @lainasparetime.

Fruit in plastic tubs, credit @lainasparetime.

Pulled pork in plastic tubs, credit @lainasparetime.

I could go on for ages! I need you to ask yourself: "why am I agitating for the removal/improvement of oranges and not the rest of these?" If your answer is, as I've seen some say, that disability accommodations are too much for the planet to bear, well, that's ableism. I ask that anyone giving that answer please re-examine whether there's not another way they could reduce waste w/o harming disabled folks.

To sum up: Yes, the oranges are an accessibility item. Most stores with a "deli bar" will package commonly asked-for items to save time. Once the items are already being packaged for, say, elderly customers who asked for peeled oranges, the store doesn't care whether the buyers are "legitimately disabled" or merely "lazy" (or, more likely, short of time for preparation).

A note on the actual oranges used: It's likely that the oranges being selected for peeling were ugly/bruised specimens that wouldn't have been bought anyway. Packaging them meant that they didn't get tossed in the garbage. It's actually good for the environment that these are being sold instead of trashed.


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