When I had a salesman come to my house this evening, I was prepared for a pitch. I was prepared for him to tell me why he thought what he was selling was necessary for my life. I was ready to listen to everything he had to say and decide for myself if I agreed with his assessment. What I wasn’t prepared for was his attitude about my life.
He started by telling me he liked my house. I thanked him politely. Then he followed up with something that caught me completely off guard. This is a direct quote.
“Given that you don’t get out much, it is good that your house has a lot of windows.”
He said that. Really. I swear.
Now to say that his attitude is archaic is an epic understatement. I mean, does he not realize that Franklin D. Roosevelt was president before he was born? Even back then, the American people elected Roosevelt to four terms in office, based on his abilities as President and nothing else.
The salesman might have assumed that I don’t do much with my days and that because I have a disability I don’t have an active, fulfilling life. He would be wrong. But it wasn’t just his attitude that put me off. It was the word he used to describe me as well.
He called me “handicapped”
I know first hand that many people use that word with the best of intentions. Most have heard it for their entire lives, and use it not with malice, just out of perfectly understandable ignorance. Lots of people have never given a thought to what the word means broken down. If I may, I would like to shed a bit of light on the subject.
That word began to be offensive around the time that Nixon resigned. It happens to be taken from the phrase “hand in cap” and it implies that the only thing people with disabilities can do is beg.
When I describe myself to people, I often say that I have brown hair and brown eyes, lots of freckles, and a hearty laugh. I also readily admit that I am a person with a disability. For me, that is a source of empowerment and pride. Let me say that again. I am a person with a disability. That phrasing is important. I am a person first, my disability is secondary.
My list of accomplishments includes getting a Master’s degree, breaking national records in sports, and making a delicious key lime pie, if I do say so myself. It has taken me a while to figure out who I am. Still, I am a work in progress. But my disability doesn’t define me, and I am certainly not “handicapped”.
Even if my house does have a lot of windows.