Once upon a time I was a good crip.
A good crip doesn’t get annoyed when strangers walk up and ask ‘what is wrong with you?’
Not hello. Not ‘nice day isn’t it? ‘ Just ‘what is wrong with you.’ They don’t really ask so much as they demand. Sometimes they put ‘do you mind if I ask’ in front but they mean it rhetorically. I know because of their reaction when I say yes.
A good crip ignores the two middle-aged, upper-middle class women sitting near her in the coffee shop pointing and sighing about how ‘ it’s just so tragic yet look at her sitting there having a coffee.’
Imagine that – why it’s almost like I’m a real person or something.
A good crip apologizes to her friends for ruining their plans for the evening and nods understandingly at the woman standing on the step in the doorway.
A good crip tells everyone not to feel bad – of course it’s no one’s fault, I mean it’s not like anyone has invented a way to solve that. What could they possibly put there in place of a step?
A good crip feels bad that the non-disabled people feel bad she can’t go inside their establishment because accessibility ‘just didn’t fit the look we were going for.’
A good crip tells a restaurateur it’s totally cool they said their place was accessible and only after she finished her coffee did they explain the toilet isn’t. A good crip thinks it’s very kind of them that they thought to arrange to allow ‘people like her’ to use a neighbouring business’ bathroom and no she doesn’t mind going out in a downpour just to pee and of course she’ll still leave a tip and come back again soon.
A good crip knows her job is to always be understanding and ensure no one feels uncomfortable about making her use the laundry elevator in a newly renovated five star hotel – because the stairs in to the lobby ‘were a really important and historically significant design element.’
A good crip is just so gosh darn grateful to be allowed outside and in public she doesn’t sputter obscenities at people who swing their shoulder bags around almost knocking her unconscious.
A good crip is cool with your need to flick your cigarette immediately after passing by her and thus not only fill her hyper sensitive lungs with toxic chemicals but her lap with ashes – because, hey, freedom am I right?
A good crip laughs at your ableist humour and nods yes it’s so funny the way people get so sensitive about words – I mean it’s not like those labels were and still are used to strip disabled people of their freedoms, deny them the right to have children, decide where they live, what or when or if they eat or sometimes even whether they live. Big deal – they’re just words right?
A good crip smiles sweetly and thanks you for your kindness when you, a complete stranger walk up behind and push her without bothering to ask if she wants to be pushed.
A good crip understands that you as a non-disabled person definitely know/no her body and what she needs better than she does so that when you ignore her request to stop she stays quiet – she would never throw you a death stare and tell you to get your bloody hands off of her – please.
A good crip doesn’t argue with the OT who insists a manual wheelchair isn’t safe even though her only reason for saying so is ‘a power chair would just be easier.’
A good crip doesn’t ask – for who?
A good crip knows she has no right to question when urban planners and really cool, hip people who know everything they need to know about everyone and everything hold conferences in Canadian cities aimed at creating walkable communities and forget to include accessibility – because being green is more important than her being seen – or heard – or included.
A good crip ‘gets’ that you didn’t mean ‘that kind‘ of accessible when you called a space that no wheelchair could get in ‘accessible.’
A good crip doesn’t point out that for a long time her disability was invisible and that there are millions of people being excluded – not just people in wheelchairs – by designs and decisions that refuse to acknowledge the beautiful diversity of humanity.
A good crip knows she can never be beautiful.
A good crip understands your definition of diversity doesn’t include disabled.
A good crip is okay that white, usually young, male and middle-class, is the only representation of disability that we normally see – because oh well, whatever you tried right?
A good crip thinks it’s totes reasonable for non-disabled people to expect all disabled people to be able to do the things paralympians do because after all, you non-disabled people are all Olympic athletes right?
A good crip is happily erased from films, TV shows or alternatively celebrates when a non-disabled actor gets to ‘act’ disabled in ways that no disabled person ever would – ever.
A good crip thinks using a fictional disabled person’s feelings of worthlessness as a vehicle for a young woman’s independence is very romantic.
A good crip feels really bad about being a crip, being in the way in spaces that were designed to exclude and needing different things than non-disabled people need.
A good crip is really happy if a politician even says the word disabled because the bar is so low that just not mocking us is a fucking victory.
A good crip doesn’t balk at the well-below the poverty line disability rates because she is just grateful for any scraps the government throws her way – after all, what use is she to the economy anymore?
A good crip doesn’t mind everyone thinks wheelchair user and senior citizen are synonyms.
A good crip knows the nurse who cringed with shock and horror when she refused to sign a DNR and demanded to know ‘why she would want to go on living’ was just being empathetic and wanting to alleviate her suffering.
A good crip thinks its reasonable when doctors treat her health as less important than that of a non-disabled person.
A good crip with a rare disease appreciates why her GP can only spend the same amount of time on her consult as the otherwise healthy patient with a sinus infection.
A good crip completely understands why her city spent millions of dollars to revamp a transit system to make it less accessible.
A good crip doesn’t expect the mayor of her city to care when a taxi driver keeps her in his cab against her will and ignores her demands to be let out.
Excellent Talk by Alan Larson Ph.D., CRC
A good crip is made not born.
My transition started as soon as I became disabled.
It started with the medical system.
Being a good patient is unhealthy.
Compliant. Passive and above all deferential.
An adult working for gold stars and happy faces on a reward chart.
After that – stairs and stares.
One day I came across a tweet with #CripTheVote . It was the beginning of change.
I not only found a community that knew when to laugh, roll their eyes and weep without explanation – I entered the world of resistance and insistence.
A secret, never talked about underground where crips said things they weren’t supposed to say.
Vive la resistance.
Bad crips don’t apologize for being.
A bad crip stares down shame with pride.
When the non-disabled world wags its finger a bad crip says – take a seat, hell no take a 100 seats, it’s time for you to listen and learn.
A bad crip tells the ‘here to fix you crew’ to take a good, long look in the damn mirror.
A bad crip questions why an organization that speaks ‘for’ them doesn’t involve, employ or accurately represent them.
When told there’s no space a bad crip hands you a sledge hammer and says ‘time to remodel.’
A bad crip asks arm-chair clinicians where they got their medical degree.
A bad crip asks you to point out where exactly on the DSM-5 racism, misogyny and hate are listed as a diagnosis?
A bad crip sends a subpoena to the ‘that’s just the way it is’ sigh.
A bad crip is not here to entertain, inspire or be a source of perspective so you feel less bad, more motivated or more grateful.
A bad crip points out there is a category between sub-human and super-human called human and that is the one they occupy.
A bad crip tells pity to move on – justice doesn’t like its company.
A bad crip tells those who oppose accessibility because asphalt isn’t pretty and black doesn’t go with green – thanks for your thoughts, I’ll file them under shallow and mean.
So thank you online disability community, you made me a bad crip. You taught me the things I face are not unique and that while I am isolated, the discrimination, hate and plague of pity I face is not.
You – all of you – liberated me.
I heard and I felt heard.
Invisible but seen.
Unknown but known.
The political power of ‘it’s not just me.’
I marvel at your insights and analysis.
Every day I am learning.
And thinking. Challenging. Questioning. Emboldening. Voicing. Living. Growing.
You – all of you – liberated me.
Every single one of your tweets matter. Do not ever doubt this. Your tweets, posts, art and links imbued me with pride.
Once freed from servitude to ableism I left its darkness and every pore in my body sucked in the sunshine of support that this community shines free of charge on all who step into it.
You are why I volunteered to mentor medical students. Your words were shared – and are still being shared. You shaped minds. You may save lives.
You are why I demand my city do better and why I will work for the passing of a British Columbians with Disabilities Act.
You are why I keep flexing my vocal cords and will not surrender to looks of reproach for demanding space.
You are why my goal is to be the most bad ass bad crip my town has ever met.
I love you and above all know this – you matter.