Friday, May 4, 2007

Et tu, Brute?

photo credit- SeraphimC

What could be worse than making an ignorant statement regarding someone with a disability? Why, to make it on Blogging Against Disablism day, on your blog, while blogging against disablism!

Two days ago I wrote about my fears regarding when societal attitudes regarding race intersect with ingrained reactions of police when they encounter citizens with autism. And, as Tokah pointed out, while talking about how autism is an invisible disability, I said,

"...You're not confined to a wheelchair, you don't need a cane, and your body moves just fine. ..."

Tokah rightly (and kindly) pointed out that a chair is an instrument that facilitates mobility, and not one of confinement.

At first, I couldn't believe I had actually said what I did. I didn't remember saying that, and had to go back and check the text to see that I had. I mean, I'm in the middle of blogging about attitudes about the disabled, and then I say something totally ignorant. Especially considering I spent almost a year (I said a year in my reply to Tokah, but it was really only 11 months) in a chair when I was young. One would think that having gone thru that experience, I would be a little more careful in my language. But evidently I subconciously incorporated that time as being "confined" to a wheelchair, even though I've always felt that that experience gave me special insight into the lives of those who always need to depend on a chair to get around.

When I was 13 I had an operation on my legs. When I started high school, I was in the chair for all but the last month of my first year. In retrospect, it was a little unusual, as new people I met initially assumed I was permanently disabled. I got a lot of that "poor you" pity thing, where I could tell people felt sorry for me because of the chair. I also felt that a lot of people never saw past the chair, and for them, that was how I was defined.

I don't know if my thought process of thinking of myself as being "confined" to a wheelchair was a thought that I developed myself, or whether it was the attitudes of those around me that I incorporated. I've changed a lot since those days, and consider myself to be relatively enlightened when it comes to disablism, but my writing that two days ago indicates that there are places inside me that I didn't really know existed.

I am not a high quality wordsmith like many who blog. But I do realize the importance of language. How we name things and talk about things does matter. And while I am a firm believer in free speech and don't feel that the whole world has to be "PC", I am also a firm believer in courtesy and respect for other individuals. So for any others that noticed my gaffe, I apologize, and I'll try to do better.

I'll be out of town for a little R and R and probably offline until late Monday. See y'all when I get back!


Anonymous said...

I think it's hard not to use certain over-used phrases, "confined to a wheelchair" is the typical way people say "uses a wheelchair." It's not acceptable, but I don't think your using it means that your are a bad person. Everyone says and writes dumb stuff sometimes, especially when they are writing fairly quickly and don't have editors to double check everything.


I used this in another commentary somewhere. There's a difference between being a racist and being prejudice. You were not a disablist, you were being prejudablist!

Maddy said...

I can't count the number of times that I've written a phrase [or spoken] and wished I had a delete button or some duct tape. We're all on a learning curve. To be honest, it's only by reading some of the hub bloggers that I've had my eyes opened.
Best wishes