When I first came across the Facebook page LetsCureCP (Cerebral Palsy), I was outraged. Notice no link to that Facebook page, we don’t want any more traffic to it!
Guest blogger Jessica Kramer is a back with a great reflection on Dealing With Others. Jessica is a second year Masters Student in Disability Studies at Syracuse University. If you would like to submit a guest post on living with a disability, please email me.
Not only do I not agree with the message that disability is something that needs to be cured or “fixed,” I could not believe it was started by a mother of a child living with CP. It was so discouraging to watch her talk about how special her daughter was and how she is trapped in her body.
When I found the affiliated nonprofit with the same name, I was shocked by the awful language used in their mission statement. “Debilitating condition” would not ever describe how CP affects my life. CP is an essential part of who I am and what makes me ME.
That said, when I got to college I truly encountered people needing to “fix” me.
These moments led to a crucial choice for me between deciding if I should believe that my body was abnormal or if I should be proud of my disabled identity.
One moment was during my last semester of undergrad. I was walking to an appointment when I was stopped by another student. He very confidently turned to me and said “Excuse me, what is wrong with you? I am a Christian. I noticed you limping and wanted to know why so I could pray for you to get better.” Oh, the layers of wrong here!
The presumption that something was wrong with me. Yes, I walk differently, with my distinct limp. Why does that imply needing correction? It is because if someone does not have the “normal” gait, she does not have an “acceptable body,” and thus, needs fixing. This kind of thinking perpetuates the mythical thinking that a person’s worth is attached to the body.
This fellow student, in his grandiose gesture, assumed because my body is not typical, I did not like my body. Sometimes I do not, but it is never because of the disability. It is because my body doesn’t always function to its fullest in my environment due to intrinsic design flaws. For example, when I order an Uber, I worry if I will be able to get in the car. Some vehicles do not have steps to get in when they are high off the ground, and others do not have handles, so I can steady myself while getting in and out. This is not an example of my body being defective, but of how there are design flaws in cars.
Another example is my apartment complex. It is a brand-new building, yet the entrances do not have automatic buttons installed. My body (and keep in mind many able bodies too!) may not be able to carry groceries and open doors. I would, however, be able to successfully enter my building if there was an automatic button to press that opens the door. Here again, it is not my body’s inability that is the issue, it is the building’s inadequacies that pose the problem. I’m happy with my body; it does not need to be cured.
What needs fixing is the way society accommodates those with disabilities. And gee, that IS something that can be fixed. Why don’t we put our energies there?
Next post, a look at what to when people in our life want to fix us.