Friday, October 23, 2015

A Response to The Cerebral Palsy Foundation's #JustSayHi Campaign from Someone With CP

When I first saw news about this campaign on social media yesterday, I was flummoxed:

Now that I've had time to consider it more, I feel even more strongly about speaking out about the problems this campaign exacerbates.  I'm sure it was started with the best of intentions, but the bottom line is that it does nothing but widen the gap between people with CP and those without it.

Unless you are an ultra friendly person, who genuinely does greet everyone you see with a "hi", something like this is singling us out unnecessarily.  (And as Emily Ladau so brilliantly pointed out in her article #JustActNormally - A Response to The Cerebral Palsy Foundation's #JustSayHi Campaign:  ""If you swapped out disability for any other appearance-related identifier, how would this campaign go over? ‪#‎JustSayHi‬ to Asian people. #JustSayHi to people with red hair. #JustSayHi to people who look like they weigh more than you do.")  No one likes being singled out.

Having CP for me means second guessing people's motives a lot.  From the time I was very young, I was aware of the fact that some people treated me differently because of my CP.  This campaign makes me keenly aware that now, when I go out, and someone does something as innocent as greeting me, I'll wonder, "Why are they saying hi?  Is it just a greeting or are they doing it because of that campaign?"  I don't want to spend time second guessing why people are talking to me.

Here's the honest truth:  if I'm out shopping, or with friends or family and I don't know you?  Chances are, I just want to be able to carry on with what I'm doing and not be worried that someone I don't know will seek me out to #justsayhi in order to "start a conversation" with me.  Plus, I can't shake the feeling that the whole "start a conversation" business is actually an in to ask really invasive questions.  I don't want that.

I hate the fact that a campaign like this even exists, to be frank.  The idea that the general public needs to something like this to teach them how to interact with people like me does nothing but make me feel like I am difficult, different, other, and separate.  In reality, I am just a person.  Just a woman.  Yes, I have CP.  Yes, my disability is a huge part of my identity.  But I don't want people seeking me out solely because of that identity.  It's patronizing.  It's condescending.  It's dehumanizing.  Please, just don't do it.

If you want to talk to me, do it.  I'm a pretty friendly person.  Ask me what I'm reading.  What I think of the latest episode of Grey's Anatomy.  What I'm passionate about.  What I love about my family.  About my friends.  But talk to me because you want to get to know me, not because I have Cerebral Palsy.

And not because of some campaign.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

World CP Day

Today is World CP Day, which is all about making the world better for those of us with CP.

Having CP does come with some perks.  First and foremost, a great community of people who are living with it, too.  Our shared experiences with it.  Our particular facial features (I like to call it CP Face) which are often seen among people with CP.  We have awesome transportation (seriously, let's hear it for Greenie, my wheelchair.)

As World CP Day is about making the world better for us, here are a few things I'd like to see improved upon:

Awareness:  Look up Cerebral Palsy on your own time. Learn about it.  Realize that having CP is not a tragedy.  It is not something to be overcome

Access:  This goes beyond physical access (which, of course, is needed and awesome) and extends to conversations about things that concern those of us with CP.  Don't shut us out of those conversations.  Don't shut us down because we are not saying what you think we should.  We are the only ones who can speak for our own experiences as disabled people.

Ableism:  Telling someone with CP "I've never seen you as handicapped", pushing us without permission, or demanding we educate you are all forms of discrimination against disabled people.  Extend to us the same common courtesy you would to a nondisabled person.  We deserve the same respect.

CP Friends, celebrate yourselves and each other today!  Happy World CP Day!