Editor’s Note: We welcome back regular guest-blogger Carrie Basas. This time she is giving you a quiz. No blog post next week, we’ll be back the following week.
By Carrie Basas
It’s that time of the year where I start to have the dream, the one where I can’t remember the code to my locker and I’ve forgotten to turn in an assignment. When you’re an adult, you wake up and acknowledge that your dream is a sign of stress, but what if you did miss something? Wait, it turns out that you missed your final exam on disability etiquette! Don’t worry because that earlier one-pager on disabilities was all you ever needed. Besides, the exam is multiple choice and because I went to a fancy law school, I grade everyone on a curve. You still need to take it, however, to move onto 36th grade or beyond.
The exam consists of two parts– multiple-choice and true/false questions. Please complete the questions by selecting the best answer. Each question is worth ten points. The extra credit question is worth five points. You can score yourself with the answers provided under each question.
Remember you are attending the most inclusive school ever, so you can make a mark in whatever you’d like, have extended time, talk to a friend, or rewrite the exam to meet your strengths. We love you at our school and we recognize that forced choice exams are culturally biased and limiting. However, we are still trying to get our licensure and are therefore bound to replicate an education system which has served no one well except legacy admissions and other white elites with money to buy their way into colleges. (Did we really just write that? Yes, we did).
1) When I see a person with a disability, I am reminded that:
- My life could always be worse.
- My Fitbit is my friend and I work hard on preventing that from happening to me.
- Somehow, they seem happy.
- No one ever explained who has a disability and who doesn’t. Who decided that?
Answer 4: Disability is a social construct. Yes, people live with impairments but the assignment of status and value to some individuals as “normal” and those who are not is a form of ableism and oppression, deeply intertwined with racism. If you selected (a), please know that you just made my life worse today.
2) A Black woman stands up from her wheelchair and walks up to you. She is probably:
- Faking it.
- Stealing a wheelchair from a friend— sweet ride.
- An ambulatory wheelchair user.
- Both C and D are possibilities.
Answer 5: Some people who use wheelchairs also walk. Cultural narratives about disability center on the good disabled people and the bad ones– the fakers and the “truly” disabled. Did you notice how I made this question about a Black woman? Would your answer change based on race? Note: I’ll take “c” as a potential answer if the chair sprays glitter as it moves and you don’t associate “Black” with “stealing.”
3) A person describes himself as autistic. You:
- Ask him if he is familiar with that wonderful organization Autism Speaks. They are working on a cure.
- Tell him that he isn’t autistic— he is a person with autism. Autistic is a derogatory term. People-first language, my friend.
- Tell him he is high functioning and it’s not that noticeable to you and your friends.
- Ask him if he has watched Rain Man or enjoys Legos.
- Decide it’s time to read more about neurodiversity and the pathologization of autism.
Answer 5: It’s time to go beyond this clinical idea of disorders and realize how stigmatized neurodiversity is. And please never tell someone that they are high functioning. It is an insidious, destructive form of sorting and hierarchy-making.
4) For this question, you are asked to find the closest analogy to disability is to overcoming as:
- Gay: fashionable
- Bad burrito: food poisoning
- Seattle: more dogs than kids
- REI: Polartec
Answer 1: Overcoming disability is a harmful stereotype as is expecting all of your gay friends to be fashionable runway models. Embrace people’s desires to wear Crocs or reject that Cochlear implant. The remaining answers we know to be true. Sorry if you’re stigmatized with your Polartec– especially if you’re gay; I applaud your practical choice. Still confused? Think about how insulting it would be if someone said “overcome your BIPOC or other marginalized status;” stop telling people they only matter if they meet some abled, white construct of what is normal.
4) Blind people are good:
- Crime solvers
- Perfume sniffers
- Massage therapists
- At the actual or metaphorical eyeroll induced from the answers presented above.
Answer 3: If you answered “c,” then I’m glad it was good for you, but let’s not generalize to everyone. Keep taking that data, though. “E” is the best answer, which I hope will be blessed by my Blind friends. And I know many Blind people who meet all of the answers above, especially “d” because we know non-disabled people would rather be naked in front of a person who can’t see them well.
5) Your coworker shares that they have bipolar disorder. You tell another coworker because:
- It explains why they were so snippety when you took their lunch last week.
- They might not be reliable as an employee.
- You fear for your safety,
- You’re a jerk.
Answer 4: I don’t know if you’re really a jerk but telling someone’s story and reading into their behavior is a form of sanism. Psychological disabilities are highly stigmatized, even within many parts of the disability community. Disclosure is difficult and can come with serious professional and social fall-out. You took their lunch and now their dignity? I hope you have to eat Lunchables that sat in your trunk for a week. And no, people with bipolar do not take other people’s lunches, just in case you were creating a symptom checklist at your desk.
True/False: For this section, you can only select one answer.
6) T/F: Two Deaf people roll into a bar and converse in sign language. They must be related or married.
False: Disabled and Deaf people are not always in love or family, but somehow this reaction happens a lot. One example: I’ve been asked by a store employee to join a disabled friend in the dressing room, which was an awkward suggestion given that he did not request it and neither of us desired it.
7) T/F: Your friend with ADHD is glazing over hearing you recount in detail your last viewing of 90-Day Fiancé. This reaction is normal because people with ADHD cannot focus.
False: Having ADHD is not a complete absence of focus. Many of us can focus very well and get into a flow zone, but our flow might not be your TV talk. Some of your other coworkers would check out, too, but I’m here for you because I love watching people on TV be more awkward than me.
8) T/F: You’ve read an article which supports the benefits of meditation and raw vegan diets for boosting a person’s immune system. You should forward it immediately to your HIV+ friend because wellness is a choice.
False: The wellness movement is a prime example of neoliberalism. Neo-what? The basics are that when we tell people that if they tried harder, they could be like everyone else– normal, healthy, white, men, English-speaking, straight, rich– then we reinforce all of that discrimination and bias. Haven’t we all had enough of the Puritans and their try-harder punch? Respect folks’ decision-making and never assume that health is just a choice.
9) T/F: Hugging people with Down Syndrome is a natural reaction to how cute and smiley they are.
False: I feel for people with Down Syndrome because they probably get more groping from strangers than most people in my community. Repeat after me: They are people. When they are adults, they are not children. When they are children, they are not yours to touch, either. People don’t exist to make others feel better about themselves.
Also, think about consent in touching for everyone, don’t touch others without their consent ever, unless it’s an emergency health or safety situation.
10) T/F: Someone claims your perfume gives them migraines. They are being passive-aggressive and telling you that you stink.
False: Yes, you could be smelly. Let me take it in– a little Axe body spray and one of those car fresheners? Ah, it’s the scent of sweet chemical bliss. Try telling someone with chemical sensitivities, environmental disabilities, and neurological disabilities that their reactions are not real. Symptoms can be triggered by fragrances you might never notice, such as detergent, household cleaning products, or shampoo. Consider adding a request to be scent-free in your meeting invitations. When others ask you to kindly lay off the patchouli or scented markers, realize it’s not like a cilantro allergy, which we all know to be made up by others who hate soapy herbs. Ok, cilantro allergies are not a fabrication, either. More cilantro for me!
You last saw a person with a disability as:
- Your doctor
- Your teacher
- The person next to you at the Pride parade
- Your coworker
- A meme
What’s your answer and what would you like it to be?
Over twenty-percent of people have disabilities yet we often don’t see people with disabilities around us, largely due to lack of community inclusion and engrained shame about disclosing invisible disabilities, especially at work. Imagine a world in which disabled students were taught by someone who looked like them, your doctor introduced you to disability pride as your health declined, and the hot woman next to you at the Pride Parade understood that you don’t steal lunches. I want that world.
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