I was rolling to the gym. I had rolled from the parked car over rough pavement, up the curb and uphill to the entrance and was now easily pushing over to the gym. I was thinking about my workout, deciding if I wanted to try for a personal best on the armergometer or if I wanted to focus on weights. Joe had gone on ahead to check in for swimming so I was enjoying mentally preparing for the next hour and a half.
Suddenly a voice, directed my way, "Can I help?" A man is veering towards me from his wife and child.
I am startled, pulled out of my thoughts, and said, "With what?" I couldn't imagine why he was asking me. I was pushing quickly, I clearly knew where I was going, I was making my way, just like he was. I saw that my question, not asked with hostility had upset him, which was not my goal, but it all happened so quickly. So, I said "Thanks anyway." He smiled but wasn't mollified.
When I got to the gym I was telling some people about it and I said, "Here I thought that I cut the figure of an independent man and instead all that he could see was a cripple. A cripple who would always need help from others." Again I could see that I'd upset people. They didn't like the word 'cripple' and I could see they didn't think I should speak that way about myself. One said, "At lease he didn't call you a cripple." I said, "Oh yes he did, you can call someone a name by how you behave toward them."
It is entirely possible to call a woman a 'b-word' by the tone you use.
It is entirely possible to call someone the 'n-word' by the attitude you adopt.
It is entirely possible to call someone the 'r-word' by the ease with which you step up the hierarchy.
So yeah, he called me a 'cripple' or he related to me as a 'cripple' in exactly the way that non-disabled people use the word. I can use whatever word I want, I can tell the story from my own perspective, I can relate to my disability, my way.
I don't think anyone really got it.
People feel good that they don't say certain words, and to that I say, it's time to up your game. How about eliminating hate from words and discrimination from behaviour?
Now there's a challenge.
Still don't know what the hell help he though this particular cripple needed.