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Crip Etiquette - How to talk to a disabled person
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There's an excellent meme traveling around on FB that suggests that if you're out in public and you cannot figure out what a stranger's gender is, you take the following advice:

"Forget about it."

With that brilliant advice in mind (and it is 100 percent on target) let's talk about talking about stuff. Trying not to be nosy, yet trying to communicate. Tryiing not to be personal, but wanting to know stuff.

A hint to start out with: Try not to define yourself as "normal". You probably are in lots of socially acceptable ways that matter, but as long as we're in two different categories, you won't talk to me "normally". You will be curious, worried about offending me, trying to be careful in your language.

Forget about it. Yes this is just me talking. Someone else might take offense but I'm trying to come at this as a "normal" wheelchair using disabled person who has dealt with this poop for 40 years. I have written, I think, about a long-ago hysterical conversation I had with my co-worker Norma who lived with Marfan's Syndrome. Norma was very tall and had very low vision. We did 10 to 20 minutes of schtick on "what not to say to a blind person". Well hell, we were alone in the office and it was damn funny to us. I kept coming up with stuff like "well, see ya later" and she'd huff indignantly. And we'd crack up.

I will say "so I walked out of the house" because oh, hell, I want folks to understand that I left the house in my wheelchair, but sometimes I'm lazy when I talk and fall back on what I used to say. There are lots of great reasons to draw attention to those of us who don't "walk in the door" but I get to pick my situations, just like anyone else. Norma got to say "okay, see you around" which she wanted to.

Earlier today, I had a very meaningful conversation with another woman who lives in my apartment building. I realized only after I got off the elevator that it was very meaningful. It was very very ordinary. It was "normal". And I love her for it.

She got on the elevator with me in the lobby where we'd been chatting for a minute. While we dealt with button-pushing (I'm on 3, she's on 7) and she commented that she usually walked up but she'd already been to the grocery store and was a bit tired. Do you get this? Why it was meaningful and so very, very ordinary? (I was going to say "pedestrian", I really was, but well, you can't say that to a crip!). Here is a woman at least in her 60s (don't ask, I can never figure out age) having a typical conversation about not much in particular with someone else. It just was. It's not the best conversation I've ever had, even the best of the week, or maybe the day, but it took on a glow. "Yes, yes," said I as I (figuratvely) punched the air. This is how to talk with me. Don't be impressed, nosy, inspired, don't avoid certain subjects (I almost said "tiptoe around things" but...all together now, "you can't say that to a crip!") It was everyday, ordinary filler conversation about hearts and aerobics and how to get from here to there.

And I just loved it. It made me feel "normal".

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