Last night we went to the mayoralty debate on disability issues. On the way there, on WheelTrans, we picked up another fellow going to the debate. He and I chatted about issues around disability and politics and identity. We spoke disabled man to disabled man quite comfortably, it was an interesting ride and a great way to spend time when stuck in downtown rush hour traffic.
During the debate itself we heard the candidates say pretty much what you'd expect them to say when trying to win votes from a specific group. I did find myself impressed with a candidate that I hadn't planned on voting for and am considering switching my vote as a result so I'm glad I was there to hear what everyone had to say.
However, something really annoyed me, after the planned questions were asked, one of which was one that I had submitted, there were questions from the audience. An audience member, I could not see if they had a disability or not, insisted that the candidates not use the word 'disability' but 'different abilities' instead. Based on that one person's statement the candidates struggled to comply, their answers becoming more laboured with this new, and unfamiliar term to them, being artificially stuffed into their thoughts.
I was seething. Why is there always the assumption that one speaks for all? I don't like these kinds of ways that we verbally euthanize the word 'disability'. Disability is, it simply is. On the bus we spoke, my fellow rider and I, about the disability community - it wouldn't even make sense to talk about the community of people with different abilities - what the hell would that mean.
I HAVE A DISABILITY.
I AN A DISABLED MAN.
I AM A MEMBER OF THE DISABILITY COMMUNITY.
There is no shame, in my mind, with those statements and I don't need people to verbally tiptoe around who I am and the identity that comes with the territory.
Good God at a debate of disability issues the word disability suddenly became unwelcome. How freaking odd is that?