Last week I began a personal crusade. I want to write about it but this first:
When someone goes on a diet and tells me so, I don't think that they are telling me to go on a diet.
When someone starts running every day for fitness, I don't think that they are telling me to do the same.
When someone tells me that they are working to clean up their language, I sure as hell don't think they are telling me to stop cursing.
Therefore, it's possible for someone do try to do something to improve themselves, or more often to prove to themselves that they can - without placing pressure on others to do the same. This is just me. This is just my goal.
Recently I became aware of the number of times I use 'disability as a negative metaphor' and 'ability as a positive metaphor':
He was deaf to my complaints.
They were blind to the effect their actions had on others.
I need people to sometimes take the time to walk me though an idea.
I see what you are saying.
Now, I am very much on the bandwagon of ending the 'R' word. The words above are not used in the same way, they don't target with the purpose of hurt. In fact when someone says to me, as happened recently, "Dave will you walk us through this?' I didn't raise a fuss because the speaker had no unkindness in mind. It's pretty hard not to use the 'R' word without unkindness in mind. Even so, it's beginning to bother me that I use these words. I'm a disabled person, these words reflect on others in my community. Further, I give lectures to thousands of people a year.
Question: Isn't it odd for a person with a disability who espouses a position of 'disability pride' to be on a podium using 'metaphors that present disability as a negative?'
Answer: Um, yes.
So I decided to take these words out of my language. I'm lucky because, I have a vocabulary that allows me to do so. I don't need them. I began to see them as a lazy way to describe a situation. It only takes a moment's thought to rephrase.
My project began here on this blog a couple months ago. My awareness was first raised when I referred to a situation as 'scitzophrenic' and a huge discussion happened here. I changed the post. Slowly from there I began really reading the comments from readers with varying experiences of disability and of the prejudices that each face. Why should language on a DISABILITY BLOG be careless. Especially since, there are so many other ways of saying the same thing.
It's been a few weeks that my writing was intentional here, it's always been intentional to the message I want to give, but it has become intentional as to how I give the message. I know I've slipped - disability words and negative metaphors are more integrated into language than people with disabilities have ever been into society. Even so, I'm trying.
Last week I began to work at getting them out of my speech. I think they had diminished during my exercise with writing differently. Even so, they were there, in abundance. What I've determined to do is, when I use the word and catch it as it comes out, I stop, apologize, explain what I'm doing, change the expression and move on. It was going well, the confused looks on the faces of others made them all look 'cute' ... which was nice because 'hostile' was an option and I never saw it once.
That same week I was doing a day long training and had to stop at least twice, correct my wording, and continue. The audience went with the flow and no one much said anything to me. But it was an intimate setting and the room had really gelled into a kind of cool place to be. So, good. First time I had to do it in front of others, and it went well.
Today, in a few hours in fact, I'm doing a keynote speech at the same conference. I know a Keynote on a Saturday! Anyways, I am writing here because I want somewhere to pledge out loud that if I'm going to do it, I'm going to do it. So, if I use 'we can't be blind to consequences'...' I'm going to stop, apologize for the poor choice of words, change them to something like (context matters of course) 'We can't ignore consequences.' It's an easy thing to do, but may trip up the flow of a keynote. But, I am determined to go into next year with speech that reflects my belief that disability isn't a negative experience and that anyone with a disability who hears me speak or reads my writing will know that I've made the attempt. So any readers who are about to hear me speak today, realize I'm talking to you with a sniffer dog watching over how I speak, and if I have to embarrass myself by stopping and changing and expression, so be it. (I hope I have the courage.)
Do I intend to start a trend?
Only in my life.
When you go on a diet, I don't eat less.
So, I'm telling you this because I want to be able to come back here, to my blog community, every now and then and talk about what this is like. To have 'disability proud' language and to live a 'disability proud' life. That is the next step in my evolution as a writer / speaker.
Hold me accountable when I err.
I'll thank you.
This was up and published when I read it to Joe as part of the editing process. In that edit I found three uses of 'ability as a positive metaphor' in the text. They are gone now. The 'disability as a negative' are easier to spot, but I'll get good at both with time. If you see others here, read as critically as you can, I want to learn this, I believe it's possible, let me know and I will change it if we both agree.