Today is International Day of Persons With Disabilities.

The annual observance of the International Day of Disabled Persons was proclaimed in 1992 by United Nations General Assembly resolution 47/3. It aims to promote the rights and well-being of persons with disabilities in all spheres of society and development, and to increase awareness of the situation of persons with disabilities in every aspect of political, social, economic and cultural life.

It seems like a good day to discuss the evolving disability consciousness of Charlie and George. Disability consciousness, like grief, follows stages.

When they first arrived in our lives in August, their initial assumption was that, as it was inconvenient that I couldn’t run around with bits of string for them to chase, my impairments must all be in my head. Therefore they would encourage me to realise this, and so cure myself. After conferring it was decided to take away my mobility aids and so force me to walk. They tore out the brake cable from my Rollator. They were disappointed when instead of a miraculous healing they faced roars of outrage.

Being cats, they skipped the pain and guilt stage and moved into another variety of denial: there was nothing wrong with me; they just wouldn’t see my disability. When they (particularly Charlie, in the initial stages of his brain-injury blindness) kept crashing into the invisible Rollator and being nearly crushed under the wheels of my non-existent chair, they decided they’d better acknowledge my impairments after all.

At which point they declared “Mobility aids are awesome and fun! We wish we had to use them!” This translated into several weeks of leaping onto the Rollator and expecting me to cackle with glee and hurtle round the house at speed for a thrill ride.

Two tabby kittens sitting on a blue Rollator, waiting for a ride

Charlie: Drive, James!
George: And don’t spare the horses.
Charlie: Let’s just eat the horses.

That got old fast, at which point they turned bitter and resentful: “Why me? Why is my mom a crip? It’s not fair!” And they took it out on my mobility aids: they chewed on the wheelchair tires (fortunately solid rather than air-filled) and then various bits of the Rollator:

Close-up of black, hard-foam back rest pitted with tooth marks. Out of focus in the background, an innocent-looking cat is sprawled on the carpet.

George kills the Rollator then feigns innocence

The next stage was depression: hiding under the blankets.

Tabby kitten hiding under blue blanket, chin and paw resting on green blanket

I just can’t

Followed by misplaced empathy: desperately trying to console Kelley for her terrible, martyred role as Cripple’s Wife. This involved much hand-holding:

Tabby kitten asleep on a lap, little paws wrapped around a hand

Charlie tells Kelley, “It’ll be alright. I’m here.”

But now, finally, they are beginning to accept: this is just how it is. My mobility aids have become part of the furniture. Charlie in fact sleeps in my chair every day.

Tabby kitten curled up fast asleep on black wheelchair

My chair is Charlie’s bed

He doesn’t relax in it, he either passes out or sits bolt upright, ready to pounce on stray bits of ribbon and impertinent scraps of paper.

Tabby cat sits in library lion position on black wheelchair facing camera; his eyes are round and wild

“Don’t worry about the taxes. I’ll deal with those receipts.”

Only they don’t start out as scraps. Taxes will be interesting this year because Charlie got hold of a stack of receipts and ripped them to confetti. Oh, well. Who needs deductions when you have such fine kitty companions?

George considers the Rollator his domain. Sometimes it’s a pre-lap launch platform.

Young tabby cat sitting on Rollator, head titled, waiting to jump on a lap

George is willing me to make a lap, make a lap. You’re feeling very sleepy, make a lap…

Sometimes just a damned good place to hang out and relax after a large meal. (He doesn’t care about the tax receipts: his meals aren’t deductible; also, he doesn’t pay taxes.)

Young tabby cat in library lion position on Rollator seat, leaning like the tower of Pisa

Food imparts the wisdom of the ages. I will have the solution to ableism soon…

In just a few short months, then, the evolution of these tiny bundles’ disability consciousness has progressed in leaps and bounds (often while hanging upside down from the curtains or falling in the bath). If these two beasties with brains the size of thimbles can learn, why can’t you? You won’t even have to do it while leaping twice your own height to bring down Feather, or figuring out to get out of the dishwasher.

By the time the next IDPWD rolls around, I have no doubt that our kitty Einsteins will a) have fixed the person-first language of the proclamation and b) have found a solution to the enduring mystery of ableism (hint: the two are not entirely unrelated). Your job? Try to keep up. You might find some tips in previous Kitten Reports.