Today, December 3, is International Day of Persons with Disabilities. Disabled people all over the world come together today and educate the public about disabilities, create awareness, and also share their own experiences with each other.
One of the most common inconveniences I face as a disabled person is dealing with all the ableist questions and comments that come my way on most days. Most of the time, I try to use the opportunity to educate people about disabilities, and hopefully creating a change in their attitude towards people with disabilities. However, some days, I am just too tired answering the same questions over and over again. Moreover, some people repeatedly put forth ableist comments, for which I have absolutely no patience. Without further delay, here are 5 of the most witty and sarcastic comebacks I have ever used for such ableist comments:
1. Batch mate, after hearing my grades: “Wow! I’m so proud of you.”
Me: “I’m really proud of you too” (since she got the same grades as me).
Blindness does not reflect how well a person studies (or would like to study) and is in no way an indicator of how much grades a person can earn. Therefore, do not patronise.
2. Random stranger: “Excuse me. Do you have a… a problem?”
Me: “No. Do you?”
I do not have a “problem”. I have a visual impairment, also known as blindness. I am disabled/differently abled. You can refer to me as a person with a disability, or even a disabled person (although using person-first language is more polite). These words have their own equivalents in Indian languages as well. Use them. You cannot, however, refer to my disability as a “problem”. I borrowed this comeback from Nidhi Goyal, a stand-up comedian with a disability.
3. A fellow hosteller, on seeing me about to fill up my bottle: “I wanna see how you do this.”
Me: “It's really quite simple. I press this button here, and water comes out into my bottle. Want me to show you?”
What did she think I was going to do, I wondered, shoot water from my eyes?
I might do some things differently, but all those are activities that involve sight. For example, I use a screen reader because I cannot see what is written on the computer screen. I am continuously baffled by questions like “how do you take a bath?” or “how do you eat?” Seriously, haven’t any of you eaten during a power cut?
4. This comeback has a story behind it. When I was studying for my undergrad, there used to be a person who constantly stopped me in the corridors, asking me to read particular versus from the Bible, and constantly assuring me that he will pray for me. This attitude is in no way new to me, and so I tried explaining as nicely as I could, that I was not interested in being “cured” and that my blindness was not curable, at any rate. All he said was “only believe in Jesus. There is nothing that God cannot accomplish”. Now, I felt, and rightfully so, that my religion and my relationship with god, is entirely my business. Regardless of anything I said, he persisted, frequently asking me “Is there any improvement?” I tried my best to make him understand, but he just didn’t get it. This persisted until one day, I lost my patience and told him, in response to his usual query about “improvement”, “yep! There is definitely an improvement. I’m not as short-tempered these days. And my patience, that has definitely improved drastically.” And that, my friends, was the end of it.
5. Random person, looking at my cane: “I’m so sorry.”
Me: “Well I’m not.”
We don’t need pity or sympathy. It is, in fact, pity and sympathy that makes believe that my life is somehow less than theirs, which is not true. I live a full life, do things I love for recreation, study in an amazing college for my Masters, etc etc. In short, I do what other people (well, some of them at least) do in their twenties. I have a good life. Please don’t belittle it with unwanted sympathy.
Disclaimer: all these incidents are taken from my own life experiences. So in case any of the readers are my friends, batchmates, etc mentioned above, well… You know what you should do now. Stop being ableist. In case you don’t know what ableism is, please check it up online.