How does a person with no arms or legs eat?
My kid’s school invited me in to consult with them about their upcoming Disability Awareness Week. One of the subjects talked about in the meeting was how does a person with no arms or legs eat?
One of the students was terribly matter-of-fact about the answer: someone else feeds the person, of course (duh!), and I questioned the student: “really? Are you sure about that? Because I have a friend who does not have arms and she feeds herself”
The student couldn’t believe it.
You might not either, and because this is one of my favorite videos of Pauline’s, I wanted to post it here:
[the auto-captions made only 2 mistakes, so they are fine with this piece, on account of how gorgeously Pauline articulates] See, her point is not about whether or not it’s hard (and it is). Her point is that everyone has their something. For some people (like Pauline), it’s a straight up physical challenge, and for others, it’s something less visible. Some people have spiritual challenges, some mental, some physical; others have all three or various combinations of any of them at various times in their lives.
But I think that’s one of the things that the disability community is constantly striving to get across to the non-disabled community: we all have something. Disabled or non-disabled, everyone in this world has something that might be challenging or appear to be challenging for them. For some, it’s more visible than for others, but it doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist for the person who has arms and legs.
Disability is diversity of lived experience, it’s a way of moving, hearing, thinking, seeing, feeling, expressing, speaking, processing (and so forth). Like all other aspects of diversity – or humanity for that manner – it must be included in order to be able to contribute.
The next time you are tempted to pass on some piece of inspiration porn, think of this. The person who is “inspiring” by dint of their disability may actually face less than you; you have no idea because you are not the one wheeling their chair, wearing the hearing aids, reading the lips or navigating with a cane.
Recognize genuine accomplishments by all means, but think hard about what you are celebrating – is it simply that someone is eating on their own? Or is that they have made you step outside your box for a moment and think in an altogether different way, thus reframing a part of your world?
Meriah Nichols is a counselor. Solo mom to 3 (one with Down syndrome, one on the spectrum). Deaf, and neurodiverse herself, she’s a gardening nerd who loves cats, Star Trek, and takes her coffee hot and black.