A fab friend of mine often posts his tagline of being the “hottest disabled speaker in America” promoting his speaking business and experience in music industry that spans over 20 years. I’ve noticed whenever he does this *without fail* comments swoop in to correct his self-description and use of “disabled” by emphasizing his feats. He seems to take this all in stride and sees the support but doesn’t address this somewhat hawkish behavior or maybe he does, by ignoring it, which certainly is his right.
As a fellow member in the disability community and advocate, I feel my grrr’s grow in volume every time I observe the aforementioned admonishment. So I channeled my discontent and compiled a few thoughts to help enlighten the uninformed. I think it’s important to understand some things so here we go…
If/when someone identifies as “disabled” or “person with a disability”…please *do not* correct them and tell them they *aren’t* because they’ve “overcome” many obstacles and “should be/feel blessed.” You may be well-meaning in your directive however do consider you are imposing your worldview and negative concept of disability since it’s an identity-marker *not* an indictment.
Ask yourself how often you see *comprehensive* depictions of disabled folks across the media landscape. Now widen the scope beyond the lens of limitations to see disability community as multi-faceted and actualized beings because many of us, in fact..are. Also, notice when you see someone as only lacking abilities there’s a tendency to infantilize which is patronizing. And needing assistance doesn’t negate one’s humanity whether the help is dispensed daily or doled out sporadically.
Oh and after my litany of accomplishments in no particular order including climbed steps, baked a cake, graduated from hs/college, took a shower, became a published author, got driver’s license, went to work, had a baby, etc, etc, yada, yada…I checked..yup, still disabled.
So ya see folks one can have a disability *and* have plenty of mundane, fun, and profound pursuits. Hopefully, this provides a little clarity and now I’m off to satisfy another growl-hunger pains!