Sunday, 23 July 2017

It's a pity you are handicapped.

It's not hard to recognize certain facial expressions. One of those is pity. I was at the market in Goderich yesterday morning (somehow managed to get there between bouts of pouring down rain) and was just heading back to my car - lap full of goods - when it started to rain again. When I left the house on my own this morning I knew full well that I might get wet - but so what? It's just water, and aside from a wasted bit of blow drying, what was the big deal? I wouldn't get cold and eventually I would get dry. I had arranged my produce (peaches, blueberries, strawberries, beets and cantaloupe) overtop of the three loaves of bread (yes, a full load) so they would not get wet and had one more stop to make that was right where I had parked. I was counting on the last vendor to just put my two cauliflowers and tomatoes right into the car - it's nice to know the farmers.

As I was making my way to the car, I caught a look. I did not know her, but being that this was Goderich, it was possible that she knew me. However, we had never met before. Although it was just a glance, I am sure that it was pity. And I am not interested in it. Say hello, give a wave and a smile, make a comment "here it comes again" or "haven't we had enough?" I was not complaining about the rain, in fact I boldly had left my raincoat in the car! It is not possible to wheel and hold an umbrella, but I left the house knowing full well that I would likely get wet. I made that choice, to challenge to myself - get to market, shop, load the car (ingenious use of my slider board here) and get on to the next thing - all on my own. And so I did, just a bit damp, no pity required.

So what then, was the word? Handicapped. Used by a man whose own father had a disability. Please, let us just let this word go. It is offensive when used as an adjective. People with disabilities who fought to control their own destiny also fought to use the word disability - rendering the word handicapped obsolete. So let's stop using it. You have to decide to make that change, just like you choose to stop swearing in front of your kids when then started saying things back to you that you didn't like to hear. The apple never falls far from the tree - ask any teacher this after parent-teacher interviews. Kids learn ignorance at home.

Language changes, there are many examples I could give, but just remember people first. I am a person who uses a wheelchair. I am not "in a chair", I use a chair. In implies that I never get out. I do; often. I sleep in a bed, drive my car, stand and swim. All without my chair. I am not disabled, I have a disability. I use a wheelchair parking pass and accessible bathrooms.

I ride a hand bike.

And I paddle a kayak.

Go ahead and apply a handicap to your golf game or your next horse race. But don't apply it to me. And save your pity, no one needs it anyway.

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