I was never one to concern myself much with the most en vogue terminology in accessibility. So often it seems that the language one prefers is tightly tied to the generation they grew up in. When I was young and impressionable, physically challenged was all the rage as were like-minded labels such as vertically challenged and mentally challenged. I was fine with that, after all I'm always up for a challenge. Today person-first language is leading the charge and my in-the-know social sphere is most littered with people discussing the subtle difference between "disabled" and "person with a disability" but what about those not so savvy?
You know the people I mean, the ones who still make racist jokes and reminisce about the good old days where drinking on the job was acceptable and goosing your secretary was fine; those times we fondly look back on in shows like Mad Men. When I find myself in conversation with this type of person, I have a split second to decide if this is a teachable moment or time to take inspiration from Taylor Swift and "Shake It Off."
I envy those with the fire in them to full on fight out every little misstep they encounter in their lives, but it's just not my way. I have to protect myself from crying fits and binge eating; tempering the emotional roller coaster that simply living my life among the blissfully unaware can be and sometimes that means letting things slide. If nothing gets by you without a correction, then cheers to that. You're a stronger person than I.
I've seen and heard it all.
Being the whistle blower can be perceived as taking the fun out of things and it's an exhausting battle to fight that never ends. Sadly, the other side of that coin is you can find yourself slowly moving the line you've drawn in the sand as to what's acceptable. Move it too far and you end up feeling totally dehumanized. So how do we win the war and stay sane?
For one, that line should fall in different places for different people. What my inner circle can say to me about my disability should be different from what the corner store clerk gets to say about it. For those nearest and dearest, my best defense to a joke in poor taste is often a pointed glare. Fail to laugh at a particular jibe and I'm likely to never hear it again. I'm also proactive, I fill my social media channels with stories like this one. (If you feel so inspired, please follow suit!) Make these people see your point of view more fully. If they truly care about you they're worth the time you put into it.
I've learned that you do indeed catch more bees with honey so I prefer to take a humorous approach to correction when I can--- tossing in a bit of sass to make my feelings clear so I get to move on instead of simmering in my fury.
"Oh, I didn't know you were talking to me, you said Chair."