The Shopping Cart Theory has been floating around the internet and social media. There is a theory that a shopping cart/trolley can determine your character and whether a person can self-govern. The theory says that, because there is no reward or mandate or punishment for returning carts, people who return the cart to the corral are good people and people who don’t return the cart are bad people. In fact, the original post says these people are “savage” and “no better than animals.”

As a disabled person who’s been in the position of being unable to return a cart, I immediately recognized the ableism. That theory assumes that all people are physically able-bodied and mentally neurotypical. The author either believes that disabled folks are all able to do the same things that able-bodied folks can, or completely disregards the existence of disability.

Maybe pushing a cart over to the corral seems like no big deal to many others, but returning the cart can be too difficult, too energy consuming, too pain-inducing, etc. to a disabled individual. It can be a choice between returning the cart or cooking dinner later that evening. If you don’t understand why, read my article on the disability and the spoon theory. People with balance issues and limited mobility also might not be able to walk that back without the assistance of a cart.

Frankly, I am appalled by the amount of ableism in this theory.

So, when Bored Panda decided to post about the shopping cart theory agreeing with it, I made the mistake of going into the comments in hopes that people would point out the ableism and defend those with disabilities. I really believed that others would have the sensitivity and intelligence to see the complexity of the issue. Boy was I wrong. Most of the comments I read were degrading disabled people and the individuals pointing out the many reasons why a person might not be able to return the cart.

Let me spell this out.

If you are one of the people who thinks disabled folks are lazy for not returning the cart, you are a part of the problem. You need to educate yourself on the real impact of disability.

If you are one of the people who thinks that just because someone looks fine that they aren’t disabled, you are part of the problem. You need to learn about invisible illnesses and shift your perspective.

If you are one of the people who disregards the disabled folks speaking up about the issue with theory, you are part of the problem. You need to try listening to others, especially those in marginalized and vulnerable communities.

If you are an ally who sees the hate being spewed towards disabled folks as a result of this theory and doesn’t do anything, you are part of the problem. That isn’t being a good ally.

It’s sad that I even have to explain this. Please take the time to educate yourselves and others on ableism and disabilities. Yes, everyone should advocate for themselves, but the responsibility shouldn’t always fall on disabled individuals to point out damaging, ableist rhetoric. This is a major issue that impacts vulnerable populations. Be a part of the awareness/solution, not the problem. And please, for the love of everything good in this world, don’t perpetuate a theory that subtly reinforces harmful ideas about disabled folks.

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