Posted in disability rights, quotes, Sunday - dimanche - domingo - söndag - Sonntag

The Things I’ve Heard About My Eyes and Brain… (Storytelling Sunday)

Some of the words used in this post are really ugly. That’s because they’re the really ugly words that I heard. I’m not gonna sugarcoat this. But if you can’t deal with reading the r-word in either of its common forms, or hear “psychotic” or “blind” used as insults rather than descriptions, you might want to skip this.

Storyteling Sunday, written on red text, on a striped yellow/green/black/white/cyan background.
Storytelling Sunday.

The story here, the reason it’s on Storytelling Sunday, is because each of these quotes forms one little piece of a long story that’ll be familiar to way too many disabled people. And while I’d like the story to stand on its own, I’d just like to comment that I don’t think lesser of any group targeted by such speech. And I don’t even necessarily think lesser of the people creating this speech — it’s very destructive, but it happened a long time ago to a bunch of people I’m leaving anonymous on purpose because who knows how they’ve changed since then or why each one said what they said.

You look BLIND.

close family members

What, are you a RETARD or something?

other kids

You look PSYCHOTIC.

close family members

You look RETARDED.

close family members

Do you have a HEARING PROBLEM or something?

lots of people

What are you BLIND?

lots of people

People think you’re BLIND.

close family members

People think you’re RETARDED or something.

close family members

People think you’re PSYCHOTIC.

close family members

You TARD.

close family members

You’re HALF A BUBBLE OFF PLUMB.

close family members, therapist

You’re A FEW SANDWICHES SHORT OF A PICNIC.

close family members

You’re a FEW FRIES SHORT OF A HAPPY MEAL.

close family members

You DON’T HAVE ALL YOUR OARS IN THE WATER.

close family members

You’re a little bit TETCHED.

close family members

Oh don’t worry, we’re all a little SLOW in this family!

close family member regarding family reunion

It’s only after living with you for six months that I can see the degree of your VISUAL IMPAIRMENT.

close family member

You look STUCK-ON STUPID.

kid

You sure you’re not BLIND?

practically everyone

You CAN’T SEE can you?

practically everyone

Hey look at that BLIND [guy/lady]!

Lots of strangers

You know ‘gifted’ is just what they tell RETARDS they are so we don’t have to tell them they’re RETARDED…

lots of kids

You just seem like a SPECIAL ED KINDA GAL…

A hairdresser who’d asked whether my school was a ‘special school’ (it was).

These things were said in all manner of tones. Some people seemed to be trying to be affectionate. Others were aiming to insult and harm and bully. Others were just confused or curious. But all of this has an effect on you when you hear it day in, day out, every day, in one form or another. Especially when it’s coming from loved ones and people who are supposed to be loved ones.

I’ve asked about the blind part. Apparently it’s about a bunch of things: I stand too stiffly. I don’t make the normal eye movements and look straight ahead too much. (This is just called “staring” and apparently makes me stand out.) I don’t respond normally to visual information. (I am low-vision, guys…) I wear dark glasses in low light. I don’t always move my head or eyeballs in ways that would indicate noticing things visually. I could go on. Apparently I have many things that make me “look blind”.

But hearing these things so much made me think there was something wrong or shameful about being low-vision.

And, well, as I said, the story told by the above quotes most likely speaks for itself when any disabled person who’s heard similar reads it. I just want to make sure people know, my problem here is not “OMG I’m being compared to people I think are inferior,” it’s “OMG I’m being compared to people the speaker thinks is inferior, and being thought inferior myself, but I wouldn’t be inferior whether or not these things were accurate descriptions.

Right now I’m talking about blindness, but blindness is just one of the things that was repeatedly called to my attention as a sign I was Doing Something Wrong, or rather Being Something Wrong (you know you’re being accused of Being Something Wrong when the local kids use your full name as a cuss word growing up). Which — no — doesn’t make the slightest bit of sense, but ableism rarely does.

But it does get inside of you, telling you these things do make you inferior (whether they exist or not barely matters). And I’ve been ridiculously afraid of being low-vision for way too long. Time to change what’s inside my head, time not to let this crap into my brain anymore. You don’t have to accept every idea handed to you, something that was news to me when I learned it rather late.

Author:

Hufflepuff. Came from the redwoods, which tell me who I am and where I belong in the world. I relate to objects as if they are alive, but as things with identities and properties all of their own, not as something human-like. Culturally I'm from a California Okie background. Crochet or otherwise create constantly, write poetry and paint when I can. Proud member of the developmental disability self-advocacy movement. I care a lot more about being a human being than I care about what categories I fit into.

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