People Equal Light

2008 Nike+ Human Race in Austin, Texas: The Co...
2008 Nike+ Human Race in Austin, Texas: The Concert. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Racial tensions in the US have been running high recently, for those of you and other parts of the world you might
argue that they’ve always run higher in the US than in a lot of other places around the world. You would have no arguments from me on that point. One of the keys to the problem here seems to be this thing we see as the color barrier, we just can’t seem to get over it. It’s been made abundantly clear to me lately that a huge part of the problem is a matter of perspective. What I’m about to say in this post is going to sound like it resonates with New Age thinking, I hope for some of you that is not a complete turnoff. This is just an analogy, but to me the human race is just like a ray of light that includes the entire spectrum.
The only way we begin to see different colors is because at some point the light gets separated, and because of that we see red, yellow, orange, and so forth. The human race is much the same in that respect. The human race was born somewhere out of Africa, then as time progressed different groups moved to different regions of the world slowly, causing genetic mutations that brought about changes in skin color, since the groups were isolated from one another there came to be various cultural differences. This is very much what happens when you push light through a prism. The light begins to slow, and it begins to split into what we call the visible spectrum of light. The development of various cultures can be likened to the prism effect, distance dictated difference.
Imagine that there was a red ray civilization for example, the civilization that saw everything as red, that civilization traveled the world and discovers that there are other civilizations colored by a different portion of light, they perceive that difference as somehow being wrong, or just different in a scary way, this causes hostility which eventually leads to war, and long after the war is over, communication breaks down between the two groups. This to me is much the same as what happens in our world, our reality is totally colored by what in reality are superficial differences between groups, the way we think about it, we see ourselves and others as being separate things. When in reality, we are much like light, one beam that includes all potential colors on the spectrum.
Another problem that somewhat stems from this has to do with conditioned human psychology. News media by and large have a vested interest in sensationalizing stories to promote viewership, nobody wants to hear about the guy who helped an old lady save a stray dog just to give a hypothetical, but when we hear about a recent shooting, it gives us the feeling that our place in the world is not secure. Our minds then become like a lens that separates light from itself. There were several scientific studies done in the past few years that indicated that people who suffered from depression for example were inclined to have a more “realistic” view of themselves, which means basically that they were less inclined toward positive thinking. I’m not suggesting here that if we think positively all our problems will disappear, bad things in the world will continue to happen. But it’s when our minds become inclined toward the negative that we lose our ability to really affect any positive change because we just can’t see it. This is likely true on a global scale, as well as on a personal one.
If we consider ourselves to be colored by a specific ray of light, it will skew our perspective of the people around us and create a feeling of otherness. It is my feeling that this shift in perspective, the slow dissolution of the idea of self versus other, would help immensely if only we would take the time to understand. Let’s all commit to slowly removing the light distorting lenses we have placed before our eyes, and begin to see each other as we truly are. We are a species that can make the world that we live in a better place for each successive generation of our offspring if we just learn to work together.

Rilke Letter 7

I wanted to try something a little different today. I somewhat recently decided to take a philosophy of literature class, and one of the secondary readings assigned was “Letters to a Young Poet” by Rainer Maria Rilke. The translation I have personally is a little clumsy, making for really bad English grammar. But he says many things in the second half of that collection with which I tend to agree. This letter particularly deals with some issues having to do with life and love. This man was a writer and poet to the core, and as such sometimes he’s difficult to understand even if you understand the words he’s using. But sometimes it takes the soul of a poet to bring light to certain aspects of our lives. My dear readers, I present you with letter seven from Rainer Maria Rilke.
Rome
May 14, 1904

My dear Mr. Kappus,

Much time has passed since I received your last letter. Please don’t hold that against me; first it was work, then a number of interruptions, and finally poor health that again and again kept me from answering, because I wanted my answer to come to you out of peaceful and happy days. Now I feel somewhat better again (the beginning of spring with its moody, bad-tempered transitions was hard to bear here too) and once again, dear Mr. Kappus, I can greet you and talk to you (which I do with real pleasure) about this and that in response to your letter, as well as I can.

You see: I have copied out your sonnet, because I found that it is lovely and simple and born in the shape that it moves in with such quiet decorum. It is the best poem of yours that you have let me read. And now I am giving you this copy because I know that it is important and full of new experience to rediscover a work of one’s own in someone else’s handwriting. Read the poem as if you had never seen it before, and you will feel in your innermost being how very much it is your own.

It was a pleasure for me to read this sonnet and your letter, often; I thank you for both.

And you should not let yourself be confused in your solitude by the fact that there is some thing in you that wants to move out of it. This very wish, if you use it calmly and prudently and like a tool, will help you spread out your solitude over a great distance. Most people have (with the help of conventions) turned their solutions toward what is easy and toward the easiest side of the easy; but it is clear that we must trust in what is difficult; everything alive trusts in it, everything, in Nature grows and defends itself any way it can and is spontaneously itself, tries to be itself at all costs and against all opposition. We know little, but that we must trust in what is difficult is a certainty that will never abandon us; it is good to be solitary, for solitude is difficult; that something is difficult must be one more reason for us to do it.

It is also good to love: because love is difficult. For one human being to love another human being: that is perhaps the most difficult task that has been entrusted to us, the ultimate task, the final test and proof, the work for which all other work is merely preparation. That is why young people, who are beginners in everything, are not yet capable of love: it is something they must learn. With their whole being, with all their forces, gathered around their solitary, anxious, upward-beating heart, they must learn to love. But learning-time is always a long, secluded time, and therefore loving, for a long time ahead and far on into life, is: solitude, a heightened and deepened kind of aloneness for the person who loves. Loving does not at first mean merging, surrendering, and uniting with another person (for what would a union be of two people who are unclarified, unfinished, and still incoherent?), it is a high inducement for the individual to ripen, to become something in himself, to become world, to become world in himself for the sake of another person; it is a great, demanding claim on him, something that chooses him and calls him to vast distances. Only in this sense, as the task of working on themselves (“to hearken and to hammer day and night”), may young people use the love that is given to them. Merging and surrendering and every kind of communion is not for them (who must still, for a long, long time, save and gather themselves); it is the ultimate, is perhaps that for which human lives are as yet barely large enough.

But this is what young people are so often and so disastrously wrong in doing: they (who by their very nature are impatient) fling themselves at each other when love takes hold of them, they scatter themselves, just as they are, in all their messiness, disorder, bewilderment. And what can happen then? What can life do with this heap of half-broken things that they call their communion and that they would like to call their happiness, if that were possible, and their future? And so each of them loses himself for the sake of the other person, and loses the other, and many others who still wanted to come. And loses the vast distances and possibilities, gives up the approaching and fleeing of gentle, prescient Things in exchange for an unfruitful confusion, out of which nothing more can come; nothing but a bit of disgust, disappointment, and poverty, and the escape into one of the many conventions that have been put up in great numbers like public shelters on this most dangerous road. No area of human experience is so extensively provided with conventions as this one is: there are life-preservers of the most varied invention, boats and water wings; society has been able to create refuges of every sort, for since it preferred to take love life as an amusement, it also had to give it an easy form, cheap, safe, and sure, as public amusements are.

It is true that many young people who love falsely, i.e., simply surrendering themselves and giving up their solitude (the average person will of course always go on doing that), feel oppressed by their failure and want to make the situation they have landed in livable and fruitful in their own, personal way. For their nature tells them that the questions of love, even more than everything else that is important, cannot be resolved publicly and according to this or that agreement; that they are questions, intimate questions from one human being to another, which in any case require a new, special, wholly personal answer. But how can they, who have already flung themselves together and can no longer tell whose outlines are whose, who thus no longer possess anything of their own, how can they find a way out of themselves, out of the depths of their already buried solitude?

They act out of mutual helplessness, and then if, with the best of intentions, they try to escape the convention that is approaching them (marriage, for example), they fall into the clutches of some less obvious but just as deadly conventional solution. For then everything around them is convention. Wherever people act out of a prematurely fused, muddy communion, every action is conventional: every relation that such confusion leads to has its own convention, how ever unusual (i.e., in the ordinary sense immoral) it may be; even separating would be a conventional step, an impersonal, accidental decision without strength and without fruit.

Whoever looks seriously will find that neither for death, which is difficult, nor for difficult love has any clarification, any solution, any hint of a path been perceived; and for both these tasks, which we carry wrapped up and hand, on without opening, there is no general, agreed-upon rule that can be discovered. But in the same measure in which we begin to test life as individuals, these great Things will come to meet us, the individuals, with greater intimacy. The claims that the difficult work of love makes upon our development are greater than life, and we, as beginners, are not equal to them. But if we nevertheless endure and take this love upon us as burden and apprenticeship, instead of losing ourselves in the whole easy and frivolous game behind which people have hidden from the most solemn solemnity of their being, then a small advance and a lightening will perhaps be perceptible to those who come long after us. That would be much.

We are only just now beginning to consider the relation of one individual to a second individual objectively and without prejudice, and our attempts to live such relationships have no model before them. And yet in the changes that time has brought about there are already many things that can help our timid novitiate.

The girl and the woman, in their new, individual unfolding, will only in passing be imitators of male behavior and misbehavior and repeaters of male professions. After the uncertainty of such transitions, it will become obvious that women were going through the abundance and variation of those (often ridiculous) disguises just so that they could purify their own essential nature and wash out the deforming influences of the other sex. Women, in whom life lingers and dwells more immediately , more fruitfully, and more confidently, must surely have become riper and more human in their depths than light, easygoing man, who is not pulled down beneath the surface of life by the weight of any bodily fruit and who, arrogant and hasty, undervalues what he thinks he loves. This humanity of woman, carried in her womb through all her suffering and humiliation, will come to light when she has stripped off the conventions of mere femaleness in the transformations of her outward status, and those men who do not yet feel it approaching will be astonished by it. Someday (and even now, especially in the countries of northern Europe, trustworthy signs are already speaking and shining), someday there will be girls and women whose name will no longer mean the mere opposite of the male, but something in itself, something that makes one think not of any complement and limit, but only of life and reality: the female human being.

This advance (at first very much against the will of the outdistanced men) will transform the love experience, which is now filled with error, will change it from the ground up, and reshape it into a relationship that is meant to be between one human being and another, no longer one that flows from man to woman. And this more human love (which will fulfill itself with infinite consideration and gentleness, and kindness and clarity in binding and releasing) will resemble what we are now preparing painfully and with great struggle: the love that consists in this: that two solitudes protect and border and greet each other.

And one more thing: Don’t think that the great love which was once granted to you, when you were a boy, has been lost; how can you know whether vast and generous wishes didn’t ripen in you at that time, and purposes by which you are still living today? I believe that that love remains so strong and intense in your memory because it was your first deep aloneness and the first inner work that you did on your life. – All good wishes to you, dear Mr. Kappus!

Yours,

Rainer Maria Rilke

Ableism in Language: A Glossary

Today, instead of posting a monologue I figured I would like to see what sparks in the amazing community of bloggers on WordPress. Today I’m going to share with your post that I found here. It’s a small glossary of ableist and non-ableist terms. I’m considering writing a monologue based around how we use language to define ourselves, and how others project their own definitions of who we are on us as disabled persons. But I’d like to see what you guys think. Language is a powerful thing, it’s why many of us write these things we call blogs. So without further ado, here it is!

Ableism/Language

Last updated 12 April 2014.

For my most recent perspective on linguistic ableism and the reason that this page exists, see this post: Violence in Language: Circling Back to Linguistic Ableism.

Note from 16 June 2013:

This page has received tens of thousands of pageviews since it launched, and has been simultaneously the subject of a number of angry and accusatory comments and letters as well. I never wrote an introduction to this page before, so I’m going to take the time to briefly do so now. The most frequent accusations that I receive in response to this page can fall into three general accusations that I am a) attempting to police everyone’s language, b) obsessed with being politically correct

This is the internationally recognized symbol ...

, and or c) extremely hypersensitive to imagined insults and slights. I contend that none of these accusations are true.

Language is inherently political. Both as individuals and as larger social and cultural groups, it is self-evident that the language we use to express all sorts of ideas, opinions, and emotions, as well as to describe ourselves and others, is simultaneously reflective of existing attitudes and influential to developing attitudes.

The terms that are listed below are part of an expanding English-language glossary of ableist words and terms. I have chosen to include words or phrases that I know of or that are brought to my attention that meet two criteria: 1) Their literal or historical definition derives from a description of disability, either in general or pertaining to a specific category of disability, and 2) They have been historically and or currently used to marginalize, other, and oppress disabled people.

The rationale for including some of these words may be readily apparent to many visitors as meriting inclusion on this list, such as for “retarded” and “invalid.” For others, however, there may be the lingering suspicion that I have opted to be overinclusive and thus, extremely hypersensitive and obsessed with being politically correct. The reason that I have listed words that may not readily come to mind when asked to consider “insults and slurs targeting disability” is precisely because so much of this ableist language is utterly pervasive both in everyday colloquy and formal idiom with hardly any notice or acknowledgement, even by fellow disabled people not using the language as part of any reclamation project. On that note, the list is not intended to condemn or scold disabled people who use any of the words included in the spirit of reclamation or as self-descriptors.

Its primary purpose is to serve as a reference for anyone interested in learning about linguistic microaggressions and everyday, casual ableism. And to the observation that some of the terms offered as alternatives carry analogous meanings, I have stated that the reason some words are included while others are not is because some words have oppressive histories and others do not. For example, the word “dumb” has a disability-specific history (referring to people who cannot speak, and often used to refer to Deaf people), whereas the word “obtuse” does not (deriving from a meaning of “beating against something to make it blunt or dull”).

Granted, there will always be folks, disabled or not, who will disagree with the existence, purpose, and or scope of this glossary for a variety of reasons. This brief essay is not intended as a thorough examination of and response to every possible criticism, which would merit an entire series of essays to adequately discuss. My hope is that the glossary will continue to serve as a resource for those interested in its purpose and contents, and that criticisms of this page might now be more nuanced and more informed, given this background and explanation.
+ As a side note, it should be obvious to most readers that political correctness has little, if anything, to do with basic human decency and respect for others, and my primary concern is, in fact, basic human decency and respect for others. Also note that I emphatically insist on referring to myself and my community as autistic, which is assuredly not the politically correct terminology.

++ As another side note, it is my intention to eventually expand the entries on this page to either further explain each term’s history and or to link to other pages, such as the Ableist Word Profiles from Forward: Feminists with Disabilities (FWD), that have already done so.

 

Glossary of Ableist Phrases

This is a list of ableist words and terms for reference purposes. Some of the entries are slurs, some are descriptions of disabled people, some are slang that derive from ableist origins, and some are common metaphors that rely on disability and ableism.

This is a living document, constantly growing, expanding, and changing. If I’ve missed something, please let me know!

One important note: Many people who identify with particular disabilities or disability in general may use descriptors from this list in an act of reclaiming the language. You may well too! BUT if you do not identify with a particular disability/disabled identity, it’s probably appropriative to use some of those terms. (Some examples are mad and crip.)

After the list of ableist words and terms, I have included lists of alternatives to ableist slurs, descriptions, and metaphors, if you’re interested in unlearning the patterns of linguistic ableism in your own language.
Blind to ____ / turn a blind eye to ____ / blinded by ignorance/bigotry/etc.
Refers to Blind people or people with visual impairments.

Bound to a wheelchair (wheelchair bound)
Refers to people with physical or mobility disabilities.

Confined to a wheelchair
Refers to people with physical or mobility disabilities.

Crazy
Refers to people with mental or psychiatric disabilities.

Cretin
Refers to people with intellectual disabilities.

Cripple/Crippled (by ____)
Refers to people with physical or mobility disabilities.

Daft
Refers to people with mental or psychiatric disabilities.

Deaf-Mute
Refers to Deaf people or people with hearing impairments.

Deaf to ____ / turn a deaf ear to ____ / etc.
Refers to Deaf people or people with hearing impairments.

Derp (also herp-derp and variations)
Refers to people with intellectual disabilities.

Diffability
Can refer to any person with a disability.

Differently abled
Can refer to any person with a disability.

Dumb
Refers to Deaf people or people with hearing impairments, people with speech impairments, or people with linguistic or communication disorders or disabilities.

Handicap(ped)
Refers to people with physical or mobility disabilities.

Handicapable
Usually refers to people with physical or mobility disabilities, but can also mean any person with a disability.

Harelip
Refers to people with cleft-lip palette or similar facial deformities.

Idiot(ic)
Refers to people with intellectual disabilities.

Imbecile
Refers to people with intellectual disabilities.

Insane or Insanity
Refers to people with mental or psychiatric disabilities.

Invalid
Refers to people with physical or mobility disabilities or chronic health conditions.

Lame
Refers to people with physical or mobility disabilities.

Loony/Loony Bin
Refers to people with mental or psychiatric disabilities.

Lunatic
Refers to people with mental or psychiatric disabilities.

Madhouse/Mad/Madman
Refers to an institution housing people with mental or psychiatric disabilities.

Maniac
Refers to people with mental or psychiatric disabilities.

Mental/Mental Case
Refers to people with mental or psychiatric disabilities.

Mongoloid
Refers to people with intellectual disabilities and specifically Down Syndrome. Derives from a double-whammy of racism AND ableism, from the belief that people with Down Syndrome look like people from Mongolia.

Moron(ic)
Refers to people with intellectual disabilities.

Nuts
Refers to people with mental or psychiatric disabilities.

Psycho
Refers to people with mental or psychiatric disabilities.

Psychopath(ic)
Refers to people with mental or psychiatric disabilities.

Psycho(tic)
Refers to people with mental or psychiatric disabilities.

Retard(ed)/[anything]-tard
Refers to people with intellectual disabilities.

[you belong on the] Short-bus/ that’s short-bus material/etc.
Refers to people with intellectual, learning, or other mental disabilities.

Simpleton
Refers to people with intellectual disabilities.

Spaz(zed)
Refers to people with cerebral palsy or similar neurological disabilities.

Specially Abled
Can refer to any person with a disability.

Special Needs
Usually refers to people with learning, intellectual, or developmental disabilities, but can mean any person with a disability.

Stupid
Refers to people with intellectual disabilities (i.e. “in a stupor”).

Suffers from ____
Can refer to any person with a disability.

Wacko/Whacko
Refers to people with mental or psychiatric disabilities.

 

________________

Non-ableist language:
Always respect an individual person’s preference for identifying or describing xirself.

Instead of an ableist word, perhaps you actually meant to say…
(more invective replacements that use profanity/swears are included at the very bottom in a separate list)

Asinine
Bad
Bleak
Boring
Bullish
Callous
Careless
Confusing
Contemptible
Coward
Crappy
Dense
Devoid of _____
Disgusting
Dull
Enraged
Evil
Extremist
Furious
Gross
Half-hearted
Horrible
Ignoramus
Ignorant
Impolite
Inane
Incomprehensible
Inconsiderate
Inconsistent
Infuriating
Insensible
Insipid
Irrational
Jerk
Lacking in _____
Livid
Mean
Nasty
Nefarious
Nonsense
Nonsensical
Obtuse
Outrageous
Overwrought
Paradoxical
Pathetic
Petulant
Pissant
Putrid
Rage-inducing
Reckless
Ridiculous
Rude
Scornful
Self-contradictory
Shameful
Solipsistic
Spurious
Terrible
Tyrannical
Unbelievable
Unconscionable
Unheard of
Uninspired
Unoriginal
Unthinkable
Unthinking
Useless
Vapid
Vile
Vomit-inducing
Without any _____ whatsoever
Wretched
For describing people with disabilities/disabled people in general:
Disabled
Has a disability
With a disability
With a chronic health condition
Has a chronic health condition
Neuroatypical
Neurodivergent

For describing people on the autism spectrum:
On the autism spectrum
Autistic
With autism [if preferred by individual]
Aspie [if preferred by individual]

For describing people with intellectual disabilities:
With an intellectual disability
Has an intellectual disability
With a cognitive disability
Has a cognitive disability

For describing people with sensory disabilities or impairments:
Blind
Low vision
Deaf
Hard of hearing

For describing people with physical or mobility disabilities:
With a physical disability
With a mobility disability
Uses a wheelchair
In a wheelchair
Uses crutches
Uses a cane
Uses a walker
Has [specific condition here]

Trigger Warning: Possible Replacement Insults Using Swears/Profanity (directly below)

Asshat
Asshole
Douchebag
Douchecanoe
Fucker
Fuckface
Half-assed
Shitty

Captain Gimpy Goes to Dinner

Disability and Relationships: The Family Component

Captain Gimpy
Captain Gimpy

I recently had a very interesting conversation with a good friend of mine, and he made me think about a component of relationships and disabled persons, that I hadn’t thought of in a very long time. Thank you for that.
I remember being about 17, and I was dating this really beautiful Asian woman (read: girl) I have to remember I was only 17. Anyway, we had been getting pretty serious. And the time was on the horizon for me to meet her family. She had talked about me with glowing reviews like I was some GRADE A restaurant on yelp or something. I thought that was pretty awesome.

Well, dinner night finally arrived, we had dinner at a local PF Chang’s restaurant. Her parents were a very traditional Asian family, and that usually means in my experience, that if they don’t like you they aren’t very polite about it. The dinner was horrible, they kept talking to each other in Vietnamese, never looking me in the eye. And then in English, my girlfriend and her parents began to argue. The main theme of their argument can be summed up in the following sentence: do you really think he can take care of you? Just look at him! He isn’t even a whole man. I felt like Ashton Kutcher on Guess Who?

English: Ashton Kutcher at Time 100 Gala
Yeah, I felt like him in that movie with Bernie Mac, probably nowhere near as handsome though. Or am I? 🙂

My young naïve ass was thinking that we might get married, but eventually her decision essentially came down to me or her family. Let’s just say, she didn’t choose me.

For a culture that claims to base its paradigm of romance and romantic relationships on love, we sure don’t adhere to those lofty values too often in the face of pressure, and who could blame us? We’re only human. But when were in a relationship with someone, we often don’t think about the amount of pressure our family or friends may put on us.
There’s nothing unique about the circumstances in this story, except for the fact that I have cerebral palsy. In many circumstances I’ve heard of, this kind of behavior would be considered bigotry, but in my case it ultimately came down to what a lot of people claimed was “common sense.” Just food for thought… Anybody care to share any thoughts or stories? Let’s talk!

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From The Huffington Post: 10 Things You Shouldn’t Say to Someone Who Uses a Wheelchair

On more than one occasion, I’ve been known to write about disability,  I found this article here. I thought the author said it better than I ever could have. Enjoy!

English: A close-up of a rear wheel of a wheel...

I’ve heard some pretty crazy things come out of people’s mouths in my few short years as a wheelchair user. Most people definitely mean well, but some sentiments aren’t received the way many able bodied people might expect. In the disabled community, it’s not uncommon for us to joke with each other about some of our interesting conversations with family, friends and strangers that often involve some off putting statements. Below are the top 10 things that I’ve heard people say since my injury that don’t necessarily leave me with a warm and fuzzy feeling.

1. “You’re Really Pretty for Someone in a Wheelchair.”

Yes. People actually say this. There’s this huge misconception that people in wheelchairs are unattractive, frumpy and sloppy. Well spinal cord injuries and other disabilities don’t discriminate against attractive people. Some of the people I know in chairs are totally gorgeous! But honestly that’s besides the point. If you’re going to compliment someone, that is great! But leave the wheelchair out of it.

2. “I Had to Use a Wheelchair When I Broke My Leg, So I Know Exactly What You’re Going Through.”

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve struck up a conversation with a total stranger only to hear about that terrible month where their leg was in a cast. They had to use a wheelchair too and so they totally get it. Spinal cord injuries involve a plethora of other issues that don’t involve the actual paralysis. So I really hate to sound insensitive, but it gets kind of hard year after year to smile and listen to your short stint with a wheelchair while I’m on a nice outing with my husband.

3. “You’re an Inspiration.”

There are times where this is OK, but there are also times where this just makes me really uncomfortable. I’ll give you an example. One night I was out with my friends at a local club. I was dancing with my girls when a guy walked up and said “you’re a real inspiration.” In that moment with my friends, I was care free, a normal girl just going out and having fun. But, then I’m reminded that “oh yeah. I’m in a wheelchair and people think it’s merely inspiring that I go out.”

After years in our chairs, we don’t want to be called inspiring for driving to the grocery store, hitting the gym, or attending a sporting event. “You’re an inspiration” equates to “If I were you I don’t think I’d be able to leave my house” If it inspires you, that’s great. But we just don’t like to be told how incredible we are for doing the day to day tasks that you do. I’m often told by others that they’d never handle this injury with as much grace. You’d be surprised. This injury doesn’t just smite the most strong willed of the human race. And yet a significant majority of us go on with life eventually.

4. “I Was Only Parked There for a Minute.”

Don’t. Just don’t. This is the number one excuse us rollers get when we must confront someone who’s illegally parked in a handicap spot. Besides the fact that this usually isn’t true, I shouldn’t have to wait for an able bodied person to run inside. I run into a handicap parking issue at least once a week. People who need those spots have schedules to meet and places to be as well. Just walk the extra 50 yards because I sure wish I could.

5. “Everything Happens for a Reason.”

For many individuals hit with hard times, this very thought pulls them out of depression and gives them hope. To others it’s another way of saying “fate wanted you to get hurt so that others would realize that their lives aren’t that bad after all.” For me? It’s neither really. I may disagree but I’m not offended. I believe that sometimes really bad things happen to good people and it is what it is. In some cases you can rise above a tragedy and give it a reason by choosing to make a positive impact. In other cases, it may simply be a horrific event that requires not a purpose, but some time to cope and heal.

6. “Here, Let Me Help You!” [Rushes to My Side Frantically]

Undoubtedly the hurried helper is just trying to be nice! But let me explain the sentiments behind disliking this. When I was injured, a lot of things were taken out of my control. There’s a laundry list of things I can no longer do without someone’s help and losing independence can take away ones ability to feel “normal” at times. So if I’m at the store and you see me bending down to pick up my cell phone, Just give me a chance to get it. I promise that people in my situation have gotten used to asking for help and so we won’t hesitate to ask if we truly need it. Also, we generally don’t need help getting into our cars or pushing our chairs. We wouldn’t be out alone if we couldn’t do it! We appreciate that people want to be helpful, but I almost feel like I need to fight the helpers off so I can learn how to do more things for myself.

7. “It’s Good to See You Out.”

I’m not talking about a scenario in which I bump into an old friend at a restaurant I’m talking about complete strangers coming up and saying it. I’m not even sure what this one is supposed to mean. Does society think we are all hermits? An overwhelming majority of us leave our house. I promise!

8. “You Have Found Yourself a Real Stand-Up Guy.”

The fact that my husband chose to stay with me after my accident is not what makes him a stand up guy because his decision wasn’t based on morals. Staying with someone “because it’s the right thing to do” is actually in fact the wrong thing to do. You should choose to stay with someone because you love them. plain and simple. So when people shake his hand and tell him what a “real man” he is for staying and then tell me how lucky I am to have him, it leaves a bad taste in our mouths. This is a conversation Chris and I have had with many couples like ourselves. No one wants to be given a high-five for not leaving the side of someone they truly love.

9. “With Your Effort And Attitude, I Know You’ll Walk Again.”

It doesn’t work that way but oh how I wish it did! If a lamp isn’t plugged in, I assure you a good attitude will not make it turn on no matter how hard you try to flip it on. Some people’s injuries are less severe and so, for them, a rigorous therapy schedule will heed results. But for many of us, it just won’t happen without science. There’s plenty of people who have recovered function who have a bad attitude and millions still in their chairs who have lots of determination. If you think effort and attitude is a solution for a cure, then next time you’re in a thunderstorm call me after you’ve wished it away.

10. “Anything in Your Preschool Teacher Voice.”

I am not sure what makes people who I meet for the first time want to talk to me in that high pitched voice, but it’s kind of awkward. And I’m not talking about sweet old ladies. I’m talking about individuals that are around my age. If you were meeting an adult who doesn’t use a wheelchair, you wouldn’t say (insert preschool teacher voice here) “it’s so nice to meet you sweetie!” I smile and return the excitement, but I’d much rather have a more age appropriate interaction.

If you’ve said any of these, don’t feel bad (unless you’ve stolen a handicap parking spot!). We aren’t angry or offended, but we want people to understand. We aren’t inspiring for living our every day lives, completing the mundane tasks we as adults are often subjected to. Able bodied partners of people with disabilities are not heroes. They just love their significant others like anyone else. No need to pat us on the back (or HEAD!) just for leaving our houses. I may not be speaking for everyone, but I know that I’m saying here what so many people in my situation want able bodied individuals to know. If you had a disability, would these things bother you?

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Voices in Disability: Dr. Richard Pimentel

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Hey guys,

 

So, I’ve been a little busy lately and have had a lot less time to write. To keep myself from fading into obscurity in the minds of my readers, I have decided to stick to publishing schedule here on WordPress. I will be posting every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday from here on out.

 

Today, I have a little bit of a long-winded treat. However it is not delivered by me. I found a YouTube video of Dr. Richard Pimentel giving a keynote speech to a group of disabled Vietnam veterans back in 2010, in Orlando Florida. For those of you who don’t know, Dr. Pimentel is a disabled Vietnam veteran who was one of the driving forces behind the passage of the Americans with disabilities act in 1990, that became and instituted reality in 1992. This video is long, so I don’t blame you if you don’t have time to watch the entire thing in one sitting, I know I didn’t. I do have to tell you guys though, that it is definitely worth watching and I would appreciate it very much if you watch the entire thing. In this talk, Dr. Pimentel talks about his time in Vietnam, and how by happenstance he met a man named Arthur Honeyman in college. Arthur had cerebral palsy, just like me. But Arthur would’ve had what is called spastic quadriplegia, meaning that the condition affected all four limbs to a great extent, rather than my two. As a result of the war, Richard was afflicted with a condition called tendinitis, which caused him to lose 50% of his hearing specifically in the upper register, as well as hearing a constant ringing in his ear. It just so happened that Arthur could hear perfectly fine, and Richard could hear Arthur perfectly well since most of his spastic noises were out of Richard’s hearing range, or Richard could hear was what Art wanted to say. They were an odd couple match made in heaven. Please enjoy, and I will see you guys on Saturday.

 

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The Language of Disability: What Vocabulary and Physical Barriers are Really Saying

There will likely be a series of posts like these, I hope you guys enjoy them!
Handicap Parking
Handicap Parking (Photo credit: WELS.net)
The language we use to describe disability extends far beyond the words we employ in conversation. Because language often times, is more than just words. Language is a set of symbols that we use to communicate ideas, and these symbols are prevalent throughout our social structures; they create a language all their own. It’s true that words like physically challenged, and differently abled are far better than words like gimpy or retard, but we have to face the hard truth that even though we use the better words on a conscious level, subconsciously many of us still think in the vocabulary of the latter examples, even those of us with disabilities ourselves. The comedian Louis CK has a very crude joke that makes my point better than I think I ever could, although he uses the subject of a very common racial slur to make his point.

What I want you all to take away from this video, is that each time you use a word to describe disability, no matter how politically correct it may be, you’re still forcing us to invoke our own personal vocabulary. In the long run choosing politically correct terms is not enough to reframe the discussion around disability. It is the society in which we live that most greatly informs our image of ourselves. If I go to a restaurant without an ADA compliant restroom I am automatically thinking that for some reason or other, I’m not really welcome in that  establishment. These particular instances are becoming fewer and farther between, but they still happen. But I would argue that a worse case of this type of occurrence is the lack of disabled friendly homes and apartments. There is really no particular reason not to start building more handicap friendly apartments, because while it may be difficult for a disabled person to utilize fully an apartment designed for an able-bodied person, the inverse is most certainly not true. The bottom line is this: the more free a disabled person feels in our society to be independent, the more included they will feel, and the more active they will become. This is how we reframe the discussion around disability. For more thoughts on societal and self perceptions, read this wonderful post.

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