To live life in a wheelchair is to be exposed to a constant barrage of insults, real and imagined. The problem with most of these slurs — some of them dating back to Helen Keller — is that they have been decried so many times that they have lost their sting, their ability to shock, irritate, or upset. They are a lot like the classic spousal complaint, “You never listen to me!” You punch that button too many times and the non-listener becomes inoculated and listens even less. They’re looking right at you, but their mind is on lunch.
With disability insults, the boredom cuts both ways. When a chair user like me hears one of these well-traveled grievances, I go, “Oh, that old chestnut — is that all you got?” When even a sympathetic nondisabled citizen hears a gripe he or she has heard a million times before, their reaction is, “If that’s your biggest problem, you’re a damn sight better off than the 1,100 people who died in that Bangladesh garment fire last week.”
It’s time to bury the old affronts and come up with some fresh ones. I have no idea what those new ones might be, but I am pretty sure about some old ones that should be retired and placed in cold storage at the American Disability Museum. And you know them, too.
The Parking Lot Insult. Probably the most frequently voiced bellyache on Planet Wheelchair. Pick a version. “Damn, there are no accessible spots in this lot!” “Damn, they’re all taken!” Or, the worst offense: “Damn, that car doesn’t have a pl