Day 275:The Shading of Disabiliy on the Painting of My Life

Handicapped (Photo credit: Anas Qtiesh)

I am disabled. Over the years I have called myself many things cripple, gimp, and spaz as well as physically challenged, physically disabled and mobility impaired. I find it amusing how many people(specifically able-bodied people) cringe if they hear me use one of the less than politically correct terms. Quite frankly I don’t particularly care which term someone uses as much as I care what tone of voice that was said in. Believe it or not even the more whitewashed terms can come across as a dirty slur with the right inflection. A friend of mine recently wrote that a friend of hers had caused her to consider how her disability might actually indeed define her and that got me to thinking as well. Some forms of “person first speech” don’t bother me. Person with a disability and wheelchair (insert relevant aid here) user don’t bother me at all. It’s when people start using things like “happens to have” that I think it’s just getting silly. Trust me my disability is not something as arbitrary as a wardrobe choice or the pictures that hang in my apartment. It’s an integral part of my identity whether I like it or not. That being said it’s not the end all and be all of my existence. I am someone’s daughter and sister, someone significant other, a writer. I would be all those things even if I want in a wheelchair every day of my life. Does using a wheelchair make my life different than it otherwise might have been? Of course it does. When shopping I choose to spend my money in stores and restaurants that are easily accessible and accommodating of the fact that most of the time I have a service animal with me. If it is difficult for me to navigate through your store with my chair or you give me hassle about my dog chances are very good that will be the last time my cash will become part of your revenue stream.

Does it influence my writing? The short answer is yes and the long answer explains why. People look for others like them to use the frame of reference for what society expects of them and how they can be expected to be treated by others. I was about eight years old when I first noticed that there weren’t many people with disabilities on television, in books, movies or glossy paper magazine ads. So I began a search and I discovered something very sad. When they are is a disabled character in a story he or she is often blind or deaf. It seems as though people in media bring the  most attention to those portions of the disabled populace least likely to remind people of their disability. Yes a blind person can use a cane to navigate and a deaf or hard of hearing person may use hearing aids but for the most part their “otherness’ is a lot less in your face then Cerebral Palsy or a Spinal Cord Injury might be.When I pointed out this imbalance to my mother she said, “You’re right.So when you write your stories write the characters others don’t.”

     Does my disability have any bearing on my favorite color or my favorite food? Nope not even a little. My music taste would be the same. Does my disability define me?  Yes, but so do lots of other things. Humans are complex complicated who, for all the wonderful things that we can do only use one tenth of our brain capacity. Letting one word define me seems as silly as the fact that we actually use less than half of the space in our brain to exist.if I am a painting my disability is my nuanced shading



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