Date: January 23, 2017
Author: Adelyn VanTol
What is normal? There is no normal. This is something I hear a lot when people start to talk about disability. I am going to ask you to think twice before saying it.
Let’s start with a discussion on normal. I typically wear dresses to work, it’s a personal choice I make because it’s quicker and easy to put on. If one day I decided to wear pants, people might notice because it’s different, however no one would judge me because it still fits the norm of our society. However, if my fiancé who identifies as male, chooses to wear a dress to work, people might stare and think differently about him. While there is no “one way to do things” in our society, we do have norms. With these norms come binaries. We live in a society filled with distinctions between “us” and “them”, “insider” or “outsider.”
People within the disability community live in “both/and” meaning we find ourselves in different spaces between “normal” and “outside of the norm.” Some of us are “able to” fit society’s norms pretty nicely most of the time. For example, someone who is aging may notice their physical abilities diminishing and use a walker for mobility. However it isn’t “normal” for an 85 year old to be running around a park or participating in soccer or basketball. So there might be a difference in how they experience disability as compared to my younger sister who might use the exact same walker, but during recess with her peers.
In society, we do have unspoken rules about what is normal and what is not. Being able to fit in with the “normal crowd” comes with a sense of belonging and privilege. Ask any middle schooler. Before we start to talk about a world where people’s differences are honored and celebrated, we have to critically examine the world in which we currently live.
I asked you to think twice before saying there is no normal. Think about the person with a noticeable disability who is qualified but can’t seem to get past the first interview, think about the way media has portrayed people who see and hear reality differently, and think about the young girl wondering where she belongs because she cannot keep up with the developmental milestones she sees her peers reaching.
Whenever I find myself saying “There is no normal,” I have to ask myself if I am saying that from inside the norm.
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Disability Advocates of Kent County.
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