Today’s post takes a look at the hashtag that’s been gaining some popularity lately. If you’re like me, you have probably seen it all over Twitter. If not, read on. People with disabilities recently started the hashtag #AbledsAreWeird as a way for them to discuss the awkward and strange encounters they have had with people who are not disabled. This discussion has caused some debate among the disabled community. Some advocates have no issues with it, while other advocates like myself think there’s another approach to share this same story. I’m not saying that blind people or people with other disabilities should always have inspirational speech. I’m not saying blind people should always be kind and never slip up. If you search the web, you will learn that sighted people often expect blind people to deliver everything with composed, calm, flowery speech. This is a bold statement to say about sighted people, I know. Talk to people though. Once you take the time to really get into a conversation, you will find others with disabilities driving my point home. I mean, are you, as a person without a disability, always flowery all the time? I’ll let you in on a little secret. Nobody is.
Yes, strange things definitely happen while you’re out traveling when you are blind or in a wheelchair. Just this morning the driver, who did well, taking me to my appointment got out of the car while I was walking with my cane and said, “I forgot you have trouble seeing.” One time in college I was looking for a study room in the library with my reader, Selena. The lady giving us a room said, “If you have trouble with the seeing, you should probably take the elevator”. Selena and I joked the rest of the semester about it. I mean, “Trouble with the seeing?” You don’t often hear that! The last example I’ll give here is again something that happened at college. I walked into my Nutrition class and asked for help to find a place to sit. Because of my specific mobility challenges, (each person is different,) my mobility teacher suggested I be guided around the bigger lecture hall classes. I did better on my own in smaller classes, where most of my English courses were. Once I walked in to Nutrition, these students started whispering among themselves. “She can’t see,” I can’t? Thanks for ruining the surprise! =) I’ve had many times in life where people can’t for the life of them figure out how I would accomplish things without sight.
If you look around the internet, you will read about people with disabilities being grabbed by non-disabled people trying to help them. In case you missed that memo, PLEASE, ASK BEFORE GRABBING. (In caps, for my blind followers.) To me, (And my friend Ashley, linked below) calling able-bodied people “Ableds” seems like a silly thing to say. I get it though, they are people without disabilities. Yes, people can be mean. Yes, people can be nice, too. I know plenty of great “Ableds” as they are lately being called. I believe though, when we call them, “Weird”, we are potentially pushing them away. I mean, let’s not make excuses. Sometimes we all need to be put in our place. We’re not all alike, thank God. I’m human and I’ll be honest and say that certain people around me get me better than others, but while sighted people not taking time to get to know me gets exhausting sometimes, differences can also make life interesting. I’ll be honest and say while I appreciated all of them for different reasons, I worked well with certain readers better than others. It just comes down to the fact that certain personalities click better. Not everyone is going to be like Kaylan and Lindsay. And not everyone will be like Phillips. But really, they should be. That aside, I believe that sometimes it can be awkward for those with sight to interact with those of us who, well, have a little trouble seeing. I think we should find a way to address this, other than just saying, “Well, they don’t know.” That’s fine, but let’s work to come up with something. Why would we want to potentially push sighted people away when we’re trying so hard to prove how normal we are? Think about this. So many sighted people meet one blind person and then have it in their head that we’re all the same. So if they meet one person who uses some technology with human eyes mixed in, then all blind people do that, right? If a blind person is left inside (until they’re over) during college firedrills, everyone of us must be right? Incorrect. Like you as an able-bodied person, we’re different too. But if they think this, then what do we do when they come across #AbledsAreWeird and they start thinking all blind people are mean or don’t want to interact with them? We spend so much time showing sighted people how “just like you,” we are to the point that it almost isn’t normal. I feel like what may have started out as harmless, (calling something weird isn’t always meant to be mean but can be said to say something is different) we may in fact make those with sight upset. I think this really depends on the person’s opinion. So what do you think, sighted people? I know for a fact (other blind people can back me up here) that if the hashtag #BlindPeopleAreWeird was given attention like #AbledsAreWeird is, certain advocates would absolutely go off. This would completely split us right down the middle. Half of us would point out that, yes, blind people have “weird” things about us. Blind people’s brains don’t always receive certain signals, but it is weird to see people rocking and spinning isn’t it? Yes it is. I don’t have many blind mannerisms, and most of my friends are sighted, but I have friends who do those things. I will say every once in a while I’ll need to reset myself sensory wise but there are better ways to do that than rocking and spinning. No offense to my blind friends, really. You do you and I’ll do me. I’m just simply saying that sighted people find those behaviors strange. There are nice blind people and there are mean blind people. Let’s come up with ways to break down some of that awkwardness. We’re all worthy of friendship and other relationships, aren’t we? Of course we are! If you are interested, I am linking a few articles below about the #AbledsAreWeird topic. NPR has an article you should read right here.
My friend Ashley wrote a great post about this you should definitely check out. If you’re not following her blog, go ahead and do so. Give this a read:
Lastly, here’s another great article worth reading.
Let’s talk! Do you think the #AbledsAreWeird is offensive? Do you feel weird around blind people? Is it weird having them around you and your friends? Let me know by leaving me a comment here on my website. You can also find me on Facebook at Miranda Oakley or on Twitter at mirandaloakley