The Inspirational Cripple

25 05 2012

There are a number of characteristics, accomplishments or committments that can make a person an inspiration to others. Legitimate activists (the non self aggrandizing kind) can be inspirational to others. The same can be said for almost any profession that doesn’t have it’s roots in something evil. Finding inspiration in a person for their dedication or work is not a problem. What is a problem, however, is inspirationalizing (I’m making it a word) a person who faces an oppression for simply existing with their oppression(s). 

The inspirationalizing of oppressed people is not limited to any one marginalization, but what I’m becoming fed up with is being the Inspirational Cripple(tm). Having a visible disability means that I am fair game for able bodied people to comment on my abilities, activities, movement, and overall existence. Being the Inspirational Cripple, I am expected to graciously accept the false praise given by able bodied people, and if I don’t, I risk losing assistance when and if I need it. 

This often becomes more mentally taxing than attempting to navigate a world that is not accepting of bodies like mine. The fear of disability (which is at the core of inspirationalizing people with disabilities) is pushed on me no matter what I do. Walking to the library? Inspiring! Avoiding a puddle? Worthy of a Lifetime movie! Leaving the house? SO MUCH COURAGE OMGZ. And on, and on and on. 

I am reminded of my marginalization constantly just in the ways I attempt to navigate and perform daily tasks. When I hear that my performing these daily tasks is inspiring to an able bodied person, I am further reinded of my status as Other. I am reminded of how little is expected of me as a result of able bodied people’s failure to understand disability and illness, I am constantly filled with doubt that I *really* belong in college, or if I *really* earned that grade, or if I am awarded something based on merit and skills or based on pity and fear of disability. This stress of being inspirationalized is more than I can deal with some days. 

Forcing fear of disability and general ableism onto a person with disabilities by making them your Inspirational Cripple does not make a person with disabilities feel any beter about their struggle, their experiences or how they are forced to navigate the world. It is stressful, it is harmful and primarily, it is othering. The only function of the Inspirational Cripple is to further other and marginalize people with disabilities. 


Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert’s Rally to Keep Ableism Alive

30 10 2010

Everyone has been anticipating Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert’s Rally to Restore Sanity And/Or Fear. Discussions of false equivalences between left and right extremes have been a major talking point, but something that few outside the PWD community have talked about is the disgusting ableism surrounding this event.

Labeling conservatives as “crazy” or “insane” is an old liberal favourite. This was the entire basis of Jon Stewart’s part of the rally–that people who he disagrees with, or people who are passionate are mentally ill and we need to get rid of those silly crazy people.

This is an old tactic that is used in almost every arena to try and discredit someone they disagree with. An idea or person is labeled as crazy and they are almost automatically dismissed. When used this way, it is ableist and harms people with mental disabilities. “Crazy” and “Insane” are words used to describe people with mental disabilities. When someone uses these words in a negative context, to describe a person or idea they disagree with, to put someone down, or to try and make some political point, it is ableist and it harms people with mental disabilities.

Whether or not Stewart and Colbert intended to harm anyone isn’t the point here. Intent doesn’t matter when exercising an -ism, it hurts all the same.

You Aren’t A Grammar Nazi, You’re an Asshole

17 09 2010

A lot of people like to claim the title of “Grammar Nazi” and if you are over the age of 16, you need to stop.

I’m not even going to discuss how horrible and harmful it is to just throw around the Nazi label as if it means nothing, but instead I’m going to focus and the ableism behind the people who tout themselves as such.

As I’ve mentioned here numerous times, I’m legally blind. And, as I’m sure you’ve noticed, I make a lot of typos. A whole lot. Keeping in line with my post from Wednesday, people like to make assumptions on my intelligence, or my laziness based on how many typos they see. “I judge you based on your spelling.” is something I’ve seen a lot of my facebook friends like. These are the kinds of people who, in an argument will notice one spelling error and jump on the person for it instead of having a valid argument. For people with visual disabilities or dyslexia, this is something we hate. We spend an incredible amount of time going over status updates, blog posts, papers or just general assignments to weed out the errors, and trust me when I say that it is literally impossible to catch them all. It has nothing to do with intellect or competence, it is about disability.

People with disabilities especially people nwith learning disabilities) are constantly made to feel as if we are intellectually lesser than the able bodied community. Calling out spelling errors and justifying it with “Oh, I’m just a total grammar nazi” only reinforces the ableist stereotype that brings direct harm to us.

Glenn Beck and Disability

21 07 2010

I am not a happy camper.

I have been forced to make a post about Glenn Beck.

Over the weekend, Glenn Beck announced that he had macular dysfunction and one day, he could lose his vision someday. Immediately following this announcement came the accusations that he’s faking, and of course, the jokes.

“He’s probably faking!” “His blackboard’s gonna be funny know!” “He once said something bad about blind people so it’s okay!” “How will he know how to cry on cue if he can’t read the cards?!”

This shit needs to stop. Right now.

These jokes and accusations don’t just mock Glenn Beck, it hurts blind people like me. I have had to endure jokes and accusations that I was “faking it” my entire life. I have been denied services, called names, been purposely tripped, all because people thought I was lying about my blindness, or because someone wanted to make a joke.

Accusing Glenn Beck of faking his visual impairment without solid, concrete evidence hurts not only blind people, but all people with disabilities, visible and invisible. We are constantly questioned about our pain and our abilities by everyone, from the government agencies that are supposed to help us, to retail employees who give us the sideye when we use the scooters. This directly results from jokes and accusations of lying.

If you consider yourself a progressive person, you need to think long and hard before you make another comment on this story. Think about the real people that you are hurting with your words.

Visible Disability? Stay the Fuck Home

27 06 2010

This week, after waiting and waiting for two caseworkers to help me get a new cane, a new one arrived. As you can see, I was so excited I ignored the fact that I just got out of the shower to capture my excitement.

This was the highlight of my week. Probably, of the month. I won’t bore you with the story of what happened to my last cane, but I have been waiting for a new one for a year and having one again is awesome. This means that I can go outside when it’s too bright out, or when it’s dark, I can walk to places, I can stop being a shut-in, etc. And with this new freedom, I decided to take my little brother to the beach.

Where we live right now is two blocks to the best beach in New Jersey. So we got ready and headed out, cane in hand. A car honked as we were crossing the street, and there were definitely a few stares, but the problems didn’t really start til we got to the beach.

From the start of the sand to about the middle, there is a wooden walkway. It’s not a very wide one, but walking in the sand is annoying, so it’s better than nothing. As we were walking with it on one side, a large family was coming from the opposite direction, to get off the beach. Instead of being courteous and going single-file, they decided to block the walkway so myself and my cane could not move through. I stood off on the sand and waited for them to move past.

Once off the walkway and on the sand, the cane kicked a bit of sand to a group of people walking by. Clearly, an accident (who purposefully kicks sand at people?). Logan told me, and before I could apologise, one of the classy guys muttered “dumb bitch.” And this was all before we set our towels down.

The message being sent to me, and my little brother yesterday was that people with visible disabilities/people who use assistive devices are not welcome in public places. People with visible disabilities make make able bodied people feel uncomfortable, and when able bodied (or even just sighted people) get uncomfortable, they do stupid, hateful things. All people with disabilities are not to be seen or heard, and we are not welcome in public.

Fuck. That. Shit.

If you are a person with disabilities who is able to leave your home, I encourage you to do so. Be out there as often as you can be. Enjoy the wonderful weather, go for a stroll (or a ride) and let able bodied people know that their hatred won’t keep you from daring to go out in piublic.

It’s a gorgeous day in Wildwood today. If I ever get my homework done, my fat, visibly disabled ass will be back on the beach, in the water, enjoying the sunshine. All able bodied people are welcome to bite me if they don’t like it.

Marginalized People and the Self Fulfilling Prophecy

15 06 2010

Last semester, in my Minority and Intergroup Relations class, we did an exercise where we were Social Workers who were trying to help find work for a young African American cis male and a 50 year old white cis woman. Lots of legitimate suggestions came up (computer classes, technical school, etc) and then a brilliant person mentioned the Self Fulfilling Prophecy.

“Well you know, sometimes minorities will believe that people are going to discriminate against them and so they’ll act like they’re going to and then they’ll end up not getting the job.”


That’s right.

Marginalized people, who face discrimination in every aspect of life, bring employment discrimination upon themselves. It’s their fault they can’t get a job! They should stop acting so black/trans/disabled/gay if they want a job!

I was discussing finding a job with my case worker today, and she asked me if I thought I’d been discriminated against in trying to find a new job. I have experienced quite a bit, as employers think because oif the disability they can see, I won’t be able to work. But I probably just set myself up for failure because I know that employers will discriminate against me because of the way my eyes look.

Blaming the marginalized person for the hatred and discrimination they face is a silencing tactic. It makes the victim of discrimination feel as though they are responsible for the hatred they face, that they are somehow deserving of it. And when this happens, discrimination goes unreported, privilege goes unchecked, and hatred is allowed to flourish.