Michigan Artist, Activist, and Blogger
A few days ago, I was on my way to a local coffee shop to meet a friend. This place is a little piece of diversity from this town, and I always feel comfortable here--except for the other day. I walked up with my cane to the register, ready to order. Just before I got there, an older man who was leaving the register pointed at my body and cane and said, "You gotta gimp?" I was so taken aback; I didn't know what to say. I didn't respond. He said again, "You gotta gimp? What happened?" Again with this question that is actually meant: Please reveal your personal medical information. I hate it. Nothing "happened" to me. There was no "incident" between when you saw me with a cane and the next day with a wheelchair. It's appalling to me that even the older generation will publicly point people out and use slang. I have never understood why others will choose to do this. I personally have never looked at someone of difference to me and publicly point and ask them personal information. Young people can have canes and disabilities, too; it does not just have to be the elderly. When people do this, I feel ashamed, self-conscious, unwelcome and unwanted in our society.
Definitions of Gimp:
1) a derogatory term for someone that is disabled or has a medical problem that results in physical impairment.
BUT IT ALSO MEANS:
2) An insult implying that someone is incompetent, stupid, etc. Can also be used to imply that the person is uncool or can't/won't do what everyone else is doing.
So this is where more of the problem lies. This language is a double edged sword--It is pointing out my disability in a negative way, being said publicly, and then it implies that I'm incompetent. Whether it was their intention or not it's just plain insulting. Able-bodied folks, take note of things not to say to people with disabilities.
Something I learned yesterday about being disabled is the fact that my schedule solely relies on others. Luckily for having chronic pain, there are times I can do things on my own, but if it's a bad pain day, I have to wait for others to come and help. Being of college age, It is VERY difficult. Everyone has really busy schedules and I feel I can't just ask people to drop everything their doing just to carry something for me. But it comes down to bugging people to help and waiting around for over ten minutes because I cannot go anywhere without help. It is very frustrating. It's not anyone else's fault. I need to get better at asking for help anyway. Waiting is just something that occurs when you are disabled. It's a fact of my life now.
1. Staring - staring at the mobility aid, how the person moves, looking for more than three seconds
STOP DOING THIS - IT MAKES US SELF-CONSCIOUS AND OTHERED
2. Commenting and Asking - commenting on "what happened?" or "why do you have [enter mobility aid]?"
BY ASKING THIS YOU ARE ASKING US TO REVEAL A PERSONAL ASPECT OF OUR LIFE TO USUALLY A RANDOM PERSON. IT IS HARD FOR US TO DO, and RUDE FOR YOU TO ASK. Stop looking at us as only disabled, and start looking at us for what we are -- PEOPLE, just like you!
3. Putting yourself in our shoes - "If I were you, I'd just..."
NEVER A GOOD THING TO SAY. You are putting yourself in our place, which you've never experienced and maybe never will. You cannot give us advice on things we know more than you. You are in no place to give us advice or put yourself in our place.
4. Scheduling events at very late times in the day, or inaccessible places
It always feels like YOU DON'T WANT US THERE. For people who are chronically ill, late times after 6pm are usually really hard (at least for me). It's hard enough to get through a full-day of work, let alone staying for a meeting at 9pm and later. Inaccessible places are obviously uninviting for people with disabilities.
Super Awesome Brands I Support:
SICK is a thoughtful magazine by chronically ill + disabled people.
Salty is a 100% independent, volunteer ran newsletter, bouyed by the voices of women, trans and non binary contributors from all over the world.
Includes Articles with People with Disabilities!!