Sunday, April 11, 2010

Everyone is handicapped

I remember reading an essay in AP English (yes, I’m that geeky) about a woman who preferred to be called a “cripple” than “handicapped.” This is a very strange choice, given the negative connotations of “cripple,” but she argued that it more accurately reflected her situation. After all, everyone is “handicapped” in some way or another.

Recently, they installed a handicap parking space in my apartment’s lot. My husband is convinced the woman is not really handicapped. My mother, who had a stroke two years ago, needs a cane and moves very slowly as she walks. This neighbor of ours can carry three grocery bags and cruise to her front door in seconds, barely tapping her cane on the sidewalk. I still think she must have good days and bad days, but this was a clear example of a good day.

“Handicap” may refer to a disability or various methods of leveling a sport or game. It may also refer to the handicap principle, an evolutionary theory, or self-handicapping, by which a person blames failure on anything other than his own inability.
At, you can report the improper use of handicap placards and handicapped parking. At the University of Wisconsin - Parkside campus, this is a huge issue because students are too lazy , or don’t give themselves enough time to walk across the lot.
On this site, they do warn against misjudging people’s handicaps. I believe this may be the case with my neighbor.
“Remember that we can not know somebody's personal situation. Many handicapped people are hassled over their lack of a visual disability by well meaning citizens.”

A story I have never read but have heard a lot about, Harrison Bergeron, takes handicapping to the extreme. Everyone in the tale is made “equal” by handicapping each individual’s strengths. If you run fast, they will slow you down with lead weights. If you’re smart, a buzzing in your head will make it impossible to concentrate. I’m glad we’re not equal, aren’t you? I’ll take whatever handicaps Deity gave me.

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