The C Word

Posted by Jay in Travel on April 19th, 2015



No, not that C word, or the other C word. I am talking about ‘cripple’. This is a rarely used term nowadays because it is used as a pejorative term about those who have a physical disability, especially those who are unable to walk or have difficulty walking. The term I grew up hearing and use to refer to myself is ‘disabled’, which has better connotations than the latter. There are just simply certain things that I am unable to do because of my condition. But there are still many things that I can do similarly to able bodied persons.

While I am sure that not everyone will agree with me on this, I have never really agreed with the term ‘differently abled’. I feel like it misses the whole point, every single person, disabled or otherwise has different abilities. How some people can whistle and others can’t, while some can roll their tongues but some people cannot. I think it is important to use words and phrases that make it clear that due to certain conditions, diseases, viruses etc, that you may not be able to do what able bodied people can.

In my life, there have only ever been two times that I have been called ‘crippled’, and both those times were at secondary school by people the same age as me. Not that I was expecting to be called this, but I figured that if it ever did happen it would come from an old person who didn’t know [or refused to acknowledge] that the vocabulary had moved on.

The first time was in a maths class where I was talking to this guy and it turned into an argument, the reason for it? I simply can’t remember. But in the middle of it he yelled out loud and called me ‘a cripple’. This word ended the argument and silenced the class. The silence was actually deafening, I could feel ringing in my ears and locked eyes with my maths teacher who looked at me to make sure that I was okay. Then he turned to the guy that had said it and made him leave the class.

It is very, very important to note that I was by no means an ‘innocent victim’ in all of this. I give back as good as I get and as previously mentioned, could be an asshole at times. But I had always prided myself on not letting my polio or scoliosis stop me. Anything you could do, I could do better. Probably slower, but I could still do it. But hearing those words kind of pulled the rug out from underneath me. I was still disabled, there will always be things that I simply can’t do, and that argument brought me crashing back to reality with a thud.

The teacher came back to me and asked me if I was okay, to which I said that I was even though I wasn’t. Why make an awkward situation even worse by showing emotion? I was not interested in revealing that what was said had gotten to me. I didn’t want people to walk on eggshells around me, I was still the same girl in their class that gave as good as she got. So after some time had passed and the class had moved on, the teacher asked me if the guy could come back in. Only if I was okay with this of course, to which I acquiesced. He came back to the class, apologised to me, sat back down and we both moved on with the class and the rest of school.

The second time was during my science class and the entire class was being unruly, as teenagers are known to be at times. And this time the guy was close to me so only I heard him when he called me a cripple. But this time it didn’t shock me quite as much and I reeled off a string of expletives and promptly got over it. Not wanting to have another go on the ‘crip’ merry-go-round. He wasn’t worth my time and I had science stuff to learn.

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about Jayon UPDATE: As of 25/09/2015 Nigeria has been removed from the WHO's Polio Endemic List! Having been born in Nigeria, I hail from one of three countries where polio is still unfortunately endemic, the other two being Pakistan and Afghanistan. I had contracted the poliovirus before my ...Read More

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