Quote to Remember and Reflection

“Indeed, when a child is spat from its mother’s womb, the first two questions heard are:  ‘Boy or girl?’ and ‘Is it all right?’  No practitioner of the midwife’s art ever stands beaming above the mother and proclaims, ‘What a fascinating child you’ve given birth to!  Six-fingered !’ or ‘Legs fused into a fin!’”


            Ahab, in Ann Finger’s short story, “Moby Dick, or the Leg.”  From her book, Call Me Ahab:  A Short Story Collection.  (Lincoln:  University of Nebraska Press, 2009).  P. 168.


What fascinates you about your disability?


I have cerebral palsy.  The other day my hand slipped as I was transferring from my bed to my wheelchair.  I almost fell.   Before I could think, my arm shifted positions and I felt my hand slam itself down on the arm of my chair and push my body to a standing position.  I turned, sat down, and—heart still racing from fear—spoke out loud to myself:  “You have good instincts!”  The words transformed fear into fascination and annoyance into gratitude.  Those feelings stayed with me for the rest of the day.

Having moments when our impairments frighten or annoy us is normal.  But when those moments pass, it might be instructive to choose another perspective:


What fascinates you about your disability?  What does the answer to that question transform?  

Mary Stainton stainton@uic.edu

Last Quote to Remember

“Living with a disability is difficult.  Acknowledging this difficulty is not a defeat, I have learned, but a hard-won accomplishment in learning to live a life that is not disabled.  The difficulty for people with disabilities has two parts really—living our ordinary, but difficult lives, and changing structures, beliefs, and attitudes that prevent us from living ordinarily”

            Nancy L. Eiseland, The Disabled God:  Toward a Liberatory Theology of Disability.  (Nashville:  Abingdon Press, 1994.) p. 13.  


I picked up Nancy Eiseland’s book recently because I am an ordained minister who has cerebral palsy and who is, alas, aging hard and fast.  I wanted some sense that something or someone bigger than I am understands what life is like in my body and cares about this fact.  I don’t know whether Eiesland will give me that (I’m not very far in the book), but she has  made me ponder a not necessarily  religious question about our collective experience as people with disabilities. 

We push hard against pity.  We have to.  Insisting that we are not sick; that social structures and dehumanizing attitudes create far more problems than our bodies or minds do is the only way to affirm our self-worth and create meaningful lives.  But in doing that, have we sometimes denied, even to ourselves, a simple truth Eiesland acknowledges-- that living with a disability, living with our impairments, is difficult?  Perhaps it becomes particularly difficult as we age, or on those occasions when we do happen to be sick.  Can we teach ourselves and the dominant culture both truths?  Yes, living with our bodies and minds is sometimes difficult, and we still don’t need pity.  We are still capable.  We still have worth.                          

Mary Stainton stainton@uic.edu

Other Quotes

"The two million or so men and women who use manual language in the United States are not [disabled] in the usual sense; theirs is largely a problem of overcoming language barriers, not a problem of disability."
Harlan Lane. WHEN THE MIND HEARS: A HISTORY OF THE DEAF. (New York: Random House, Inc., 1984.)

"Using the medical model, our society is irresponsibly tearing many deaf children from the social fabric of the signing community in hich their lives are interwoen and casting them. . . into 'mainstream' schools. . . ."
Harlan Lane. WHEN THE MIND HEARS: A HISTORY OF THE DEAF. (New York: Random House, Inc., 1984.)

"Culture. It's about passing the word. And disability culture is passing the word that there's a new definition of disability and it includes POWER."
Cheryl Marie Wade, "Disability Culture Rap," 1994. Quoted in Gelya Frank's Venus On Wheels: Two Decades of Dialogue on Disability, Biography, and Being Female in America. (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2000.)

"The slogan 'Nothing About Us Without Us'. . . requires people with disabilities to recognize their need to control and take responsibility for their own lives. It also forces political-economic and cultural systems to incorporate people with disabilities into the decision-making process and to recognize that the experiential knowledge of these people is pivotal in making decisions that affect their lives."
James I. Charlton, Nothing About Us Without Us: Disability Oppression and Empowerment. (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1998)

If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible; who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time; who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer…It's the answer spoken by young and old, rich and poor, Democrat and Republican, black, white, Hispanic, Asian, Native American, gay, straight, disabled and not disabled - Americans who sent a message to the world that we have never been just a collection of individuals or a collection of Red States and Blue States: we are, and always will be, the United States of America.
Barack Obama, President elect, United States of America, Victory Speech at Grant Park, Chicago, IL, November 11, 2008.

"People. . . wince at the word 'cripple,' as they do not at 'handicapped' or 'disabled.' Perhaps I want them to wince. I want them to see me as a tough customer, one to whom the fates / gods / viruses have not been kind, but who can face the brutal truth of her existance squarely. As a cripple, I swagger."
Nancy Mairs, "On Being A Cripple", Plaintext, (University of Arizona Press, 1986)

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