I want to talk about the discrimination hangover. Because I am exhausted.
On Sunday a taxi driver refused to take me because of my face. I lodged a complaint to the taxi company and taxi regulator. I wrote about it across three social media platforms early on Sunday night and later on Sunday night.
I have received disappointing responses from the taxi regulator (a tweet handballing it to the taxi company; no reply to my email) and also the taxi company (the driver has apparently not been with the taxi company since 2019 so they are “sorry this happened” but can’t do a thing).
I feel disbelieved and dismissed, and despondent – especially given I have made dozens of prior complaints to taxi companies and the regulator; appeared in a driving training video; been to the Human Rights Commission and taken these incidents to media. What more do I need to do to ensure I get home safely?
The incident on Sunday lasted less than a minute. But the aftermath has exhausted me. There were many comments on social media. I said no to two media requests, because I worried about more ridiculous comments on social media. And then, I also grapple with not feeling worthy after being discriminated against and humiliated, once again.
When discrimination happens (this is far from the first time), I weigh up whether to report it quietly or go public. That is because making complaints takes time away from doing paid work, and the secondary level of ableism on top of the discrimination is exhausting – especially when this is something I have endured many times.
These are some of the things that have been said to me since Sunday:
The tone policing: “Carly’s being snarky/rude to people who are just trying to help.”
The helpful suggestions: “Use Uber/Shebah – they’re much safer.” (I just want the convenience of hailing a cab. Plus many disabled people have experienced discrimination with ride share orgs.)
The expectation that the onus is on the disabled person to do all the work: “WHY DON’T YOU REPORT HIM?” (x 500 – I did.)
The blame: “You sound like you want to be discriminated against!” “Call your husband to pick you up.”
The lack of allyship from within the disability community: apparently it’s not all disabled peoples’ problem to speak up about.
Each time I approach a cab, I brace myself for discrimination – noting the cab number, getting ready to say, “no, nothing happened to my face”. If the driver lets me in without questions, it’s a relief, though it really shouldn’t be. It’s a service I am paying for, and I am not rubbing my face on the seats. If the driver asks me questions in the cab, I usually choose not to answer them, telling them that is not relevant to this trip. And then, if discrimination does occur – like the driver asking me what’s wrong with my face, and driving off, like on Sunday night, I am left furious and hurt.
And so I expect better responses and actions from the taxi companies and regulator – even if it’s acknowledging the impact discrimination has on disabled people, and the work involved in reporting it.
I’ve had loads of support – I really have. But the majority of people don’t understand as they’ve never experienced it. They can get on with their day, privileged that they’ll be able to hail a cab with no issue.
If this post has helped you think about facial differences, skin conditions and disability differently, you can buy me a drink to say thanks!