Saturday, May 4, 2013

Recommended: Smart Ass Cripple

Smart Ass Cripple, May 3, 2013

Now that's how to stretch an analogy without breaking it.

What I Meant To Talk About ...

I shouldn't write blog posts when I'm concentrating on other tasks, so please excuse my cliche-ridden, ill-defined question from a few days ago.

I was trying to open a discussion of some of the ways that people with disabilities are stigmatized when they advocate. Advocacy is praiseworthy, but it isn't always pretty. Nobody enjoys having their faults noticed, especially when they haven't noticed them themselves. A common reaction is to resent and try to dismiss the people who do notice, who criticize, who refuse to respect good intentions and instead focus on failing results. There are many ways this dismissal can occur ... and my "loose cannon" and "crying wolf" analogies were an attempt to illustrate two of them. Advocates who show their emotions are "loose cannons". Advocates who are especially active on multiple fronts are labeled complainers, with an added implication that most of their complaints are trivial.

Occasionally, these labels might be valid, but in the long run they are very harmful for everyone, including the people who apply the labels. When a government official, service provider, or business owner dismisses and de-legitimizes an annoying, inconvenient advocate, they gain momentary relief, but cut themselves off further from their community, and delay proper handling of what are often real problems.

With all of this in mind, I'd like to propose and discuss advocacy tips not just for advocates, but also for folks who are on the receiving end of advocacy. I invite readers to think on it, and stay tuned.