Wednesday, May 24, 2017

#Disability Say The Word

It was a rainy and blustery day in Ocean City and our plans for going out for a walk along the bay or the ocean blew away in the wind. After getting to our room and meeting with organizers, Joe and I went for a tea in the pub. We managed to find a table by the window and sat comfortable and warm and watched the waves crash on the beach and the wind whip throw the palms. It was wild and wonderful and in all ways beautiful. We felt blessed to just be there.

Suddenly we were approached by a woman sitting at the table behind us, she assumed great authority and she placed one hand on Joe's shoulder and one on my wheelchair. She started chatting with us about what we do and why we were at the hotel. Then she turns to me and asked how long I'd been "differently abled." My spine stiffened. I'd never been called that before. I'd heard it used, of course, but never in direct reference to me.

She said that she was trying to be politically correct and asked if she'd got it right. I told her that she hadn't got it right that the term was simply "disabled" or, in my case, "wheelchair user" would be fine. She clearly didn't like either of those words but she accepted that that was my "opinion."

I know that some times I have trouble letting go of things, but the words "differently abled" rang in my ears for hours afterwards. I couldn't make them fit into any part of my brain, they seemed to mock me with a false sense of acceptance and a large dose of denial. I think that first we euthanize speech, when it comes to disability, and then we move from there. I want to remain spoken. Euphemism and euthanasia both begin with 'eu' from the Greek for well but the endings mean different things, well said and well dead.

Keep me alive in language.

"Differently abled" attempts to smother disability in shame.

Speaking plainly, fuck that.

5 comments:

L said...

she assumed great authority and she placed one hand on Joe's shoulder and one on my wheelchair.

Wow, how rude and inappropriate of her!

I'd be spitting mad just for that! She infringed on Joe's personal space/body autonomy and on yours! :(

You DON'T touch people without asking! You DON'T touch people's wheelchairs without asking! (unless it's an honest-to-goodness emergency)

Rachel S said...

I have, honest to God, heard the phrase "vertically challenged" used in earnest a time or two, not as a parody of ridiculous "political correctness." It's like some people have NO IDEA. I'd rather be called that fucking midget - at least then I really do know what how they feel. Not that I have, or would want, that sort of language thrown at me! But if stupid tiptoeing around trying to not directly insult me while throwing my physical differences in my face as an insult is the other option...yeah.

Unknown said...

UGH....why she felt she could touch you and Joe from behind, without any acknowledgement by either of you that she was there....you and joe were polite to her, which is much more than she deserved.......
clairesmum

Namaste said...

I like "differently abled". I thought it stated that everyone is equally abled, just in different ways. Forgive my assumption...I stand corrected.

Rachel S said...

Namaste, if you are still reading, I've been thinking about how to reply to you - I see where you're coming from, and if there wasn't so much stigma around disability, I might be in a better position to agree. For one thing, depending on somebody's disability, yes we might be able to do many things in different ways but there are always things that we just can't do that most average people can. Otherwise we wouldn't be disabled. Said things can vary considerably. Workarounds can sometimes only go so far. Equal does not mean same. We are completely equal as human beings, but our abilities are limited in some ways by definition.

I hope this makes sense to you, if you see it. I think you are more idealistic than some of us in the trenches, as it were.