"Label jars not people."
This was said to me recently by someone who has a bumper sticker approach to life.
"Focus on the ability not the disability."
This criticism was leveled at me by someone who thought that I took disability too importantly.
I'm afraid I'm out of step with where our philosophy in service to people with disabilities has taken us. Partly this is because I now have a disability, but partly this has always bothered me. I don't think that 'labeling' people is all that awful. I think the issue is how we value the difference that is labeled. I think that putting difference on a heirarchy is the problem. For me, I don't know how we could have a disability community without the concept, the reality of this thing called disability. I don't think the gay movement even got started until the gay community got over it's own fear of difference ... the 'we're all the same as you' stage. Similarily the women's movement came of age when it began valuing the feminine difference rather than proclaiming masculine equivilancy.
"Don't call me disabled."
Said to me by a self advocate with an intellectual disability who refuses to identify with his disability and his community. His fear of his own difference is his major handicap. He lives a life on the borders on normalicy and even though he has a key to open the door to his own community, he refuses to use it. Doesn't ever, ever, ever want to be seen with someone else with a disability. This to me is profoundly sad. A waste of time, a waste of a life.
Go ahead and sew the label 'disabled' on my forehead. You might as well, the wheelchair gives it away anyways. Don't try to stop me from accessing my disability community, my trolling through the disability blogs, my chatting with other crips when I'm out and about, my reading books and stories about those with disabilities. It's my community, it's my patch of grass, I'm not going to give it up or give it over.
Sure I want access to the whole world, but I want access to my own as well. I'm not interested in the 'I'm not crippled cripples' I find their lack of courage to identify boring and sad. I have always liked people who are in your face. Who are exactly who they are. If you are going to be Christian BE Christian ... not a wishy washy apologist. If you are going to be a philatalist wear stamp ear rings. If you are going to be a Trekkie, learn Klingon.
So, I'm thankful for the label 'disabled', it's given me a movement, it's given me a community and it's given me purpose. Should others try to use that word, that 'label' to take things away, that's where the fight begins ... not with the word but with greedy bigots who want to stuff my rights into their bag. I refuse to bow to pressure to deny my disability in order to prop up the idea that disability is something to be denied. Forget it, I'm too old to spend energy on self delusion for the sake of others.
Disabled ... count me in ... I'm one.