I remember talking to my mom about the book I was reading, “Feminist Queer Crip” by Alison Kafer. When I talked to my mother about disability, she pointed to an experience in her past. She said, she remembered back in her country seeing a man without legs or arms in the streets with a sign that asked others for food. My mom made a point to tell me that the man wasn’t sad, but was singing about the glory of God.
It reminded me of what we discussed in class and the chapter in “Feminist Queer Crip” about the “inspirational” billboards. We discussed how these billboards place a heavy burden on disabled people to stay positive and “overcome” their disability in order to be praised. Their disability becomes their problem, and if this “problem” is not overcome, it is their shortcoming and we must pity that. The disabled person only becomes someone we pity or praise.
In the movie, Murderball, when the man, who recently became paraplegic, enters his room and says, “This sucks”, the able-bodied people in the room became quiet and uncomfortable.
Why aren’t disabled people ever allowed to say this sucks?
We place billboards, all across the United States, of smiling disabled people “overcoming” their disabilities, not for disabled people, but to motivate able-bodied people. We justify these messages by saying it is inspirational, when it is only really a burden on disabled people.
It is a burden to constantly have to smile and fake happiness for others’ feelings. Can we allow room for sadness and pain? These are normal emotions for all human beings to express. We must allow disabled people to express whatever emotions they feel, whether that be happy, sad, angry, etc. We must stop holding disabled people to incredibly ridiculous standards.
This course was eye opening to me because I was never exposed to a disability course or disability readings. I was very ignorant about our dehumanization of disabled people and the ongoing fight for disabled people’s rights. I am glad that I was able to learn about this topic. I will continue to learn about disability discourse and rights. I will continue to shape my language and thoughts and inform other’s around me about disability rights.