To the Classmate Who Insults People With Disabilities
I sit across the table from you in class. You’re with your friends, and I just sit there quietly. To tell you the truth, I thought you were rude from the beginning. Now that we sit at the same group in class, your actions put light on that.
I have seen you use disabilities as insults multiple times. The most recent one is still fresh in my mind.
Today, when you looked at someone and said, “Do you have cerebral palsy because you’re acting weird?” what you may not have realized was that I have cerebral palsy.
When you asked that question and then went on to imitate someone with cerebral palsy, it might have seemed silly to you, but it hurt me. I know you didn’t mean to insult anyone, or maybe you did, but the point is — it was wrong.
When you said that, did you ever think that I have cerebral palsy? Did you know I had surgery just two weeks prior? Did you see I had been using a wheelchair? Had you ever seen me walk in a brace? Do you realize that I go to therapy multiple times a week? Did you know I’m on an IEP? Have you heard of special education? Do you know that I can barely climb stairs? Did you know I work hard to do things you find simple?
Did you even know I was there?
I know you don’t know the basics of what cerebral palsy is, so let me tell you my story. I was born around 37 weeks, so they say. Six months after that, they told my mom I’d had a stroke and diagnosed me with cerebral palsy, a neurological condition where your brain does not send the correct signal to your muscles and can makes your limbs “floppy” or stiff. There are many kinds of cerebral palsy; mine is mild right hemiplegic, which means it mildly affects my right side only. Some people with cerebral palsy can’t walk or talk. No one chooses to have cerebral palsy. It is caused by complications at birth that are beyond our control.
To the rest of my classmates: if you hear comments that may offend someone or see someone use a disability as an insult, shut them down immediately.
The Mighty is asking the following: Describe a moment you were met with extreme negativity or adversity related to your disability, disease or mental illness (or a loved one’s) and why you were proud of your response — or how you wish you could’ve responded. If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to [email protected] Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.