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Disabilities

  • The chief handicap of the blind is not blindness, but the attitude of seeing people towards them.

  • A person who is severely impaired never knows his hidden sources of strength until he is treated like a normal human being and encouraged to shape his own life.

  • [On those with disabilities:] Nothing about us without us.

  • Yes, there is life after a wheelchair.

  • Many, many people ask me where I find my joie de vivre. Quite frankly, the question always stumps me. And it still does. True, I now use wheels instead of shoes. But you want to know something? I also still enjoy good key lime pie, the 49ers, and a great joke.

  • [On being deaf:] How much less pain there is in calmly estimating the enjoyments from which we must separate ourselves, of bravely saying, for once and for ever, 'Let them go,' than in feeling them waste and dwindle, till their very shadows escape from our grasp!

  • [On being deaf:] We must struggle for whatever may be had, without encroaching on the comfort of others.

  • [On being deaf:] We can never get beyond the necessity of keeping in full view the worst and the best that can be made of our lot. The worst is, either to sink under the trial, or to be made callous by it. The best is, to be as wise as is possible under a great disability, and as happy as is possible under a great privation.

  • I really believe the most handicapped [person] in the whole world is a negative thinker.

  • The arrogance of the able-bodied is staggering. Yes, maybe we'd like to be able to get places quickly, and carry things in both hands but only because we have to keep up with the rest of you ... We would rather be just like us, and have that be all right.

  • The fact is that ours is the only minority you can join involuntarily, without warning, at any time. And if you live long enough, as you're increasingly likely to do, you may well join it.

  • ... physical disability looms pretty large in one's life. But it doesn't devour one wholly. I'm not, for instance, Ms. MS, a walking, talking embodiment of a chronic incurable degenerative disease.

  • I felt permanently exiled from 'normality.' Whether imposed by self or society, this outsider status — and not the disability itself — constitutes the most daunting barrier for most people with physical impairments, because it, even more than flights of steps or elevators without braille, prevents them from participating fully in the ordinary world, where most of life's satisfactions dwell.

  • ... no one expects all impediments to be miraculously whisked away. In insisting that others view our lives as ample and precious, we are not demanding that they be made perfect. ... If it is both possible and pleasant for me and my kind to enter, the world will become a livelier place. You'll see.

  • ... people who seem most hostile to my presence are those most fearful of my fate. And since their fear keeps them emotionally distant from me, they are the ones least likely to learn that my life isn't half so dismal as they assume.

  • ... to admit that disability and illness are hard doesn't mean that they are wholly negative experiences, meaningless.

  • With the rise of industrialism, words like 'normal' and 'defective,' words that had once only been used to refer to things, began to be used to refer to people. ... In the industrial age, a new degree of uniformity was expected of people. The rhythms and pacing of life could no longer be organic. People became expected to function like things.

  • People used to say to my friend Mary, a quadriplegic, 'You still have your mind.' She would say, 'I still have my body.' The world tells me to divorce myself from my flesh, to live in my head. ... I didn't want to be fleshless.

  • [On her father's blindness:] What is it like to have only footsteps and the thin music of voices? How does dependence, even on loved ones, twist you, make you always angry, a smoldering peat fire easily stirred to flame that blinds your children to your tenderness? What is it like not to be able to see the face of your wife or child crumple in pain when you lash out; not to know if faces are looking on you with pity or amusement, contempt or love; not to see rolled eyes, conspiratorial glances, boredom? What dangers lurk underfoot or to each side, and who's waiting to cheat the old blind guy out of his money, his wife, his kids?

  • Our disabilities may impose limitations, but physical, economic, and political barriers impede us far more.

  • Like children in a schoolyard, they want to know what was my accident, how much did it hurt, and what did I look like afterward. ... I am not the only person I have known who has encountered emotional sightseers.

  • ... the casualties among us include not just those who are dying, or bleeding, or recovering from injury, but also the caretakers around the edges whose selves fall sacrificed to their charges.

  • [On people with disabilities:] Though we have become more vocal in recent years, we still constitute a very small minority. Yet the Beautiful People — the slender, fair and perfect ones — form a minority that may be even smaller.

    • Debra Ann Kent,
    • "In Search of Liberation," in Marsha Saxton and Florence Howe, eds., With Wings ()
  • Ours is a culture that emphasizes cure, or, short of that, immediate relief from symptoms, so that we can carry on with our busy lives. Unfortunately, in our cultural denial of the reality of chronic illness and disability, we frequently silence the voices of those who cannot deny it.

    • Marsha Saxton,
    • in Marsha Saxton and Florence Howe, With Wings ()
  • It is a lonely existence to be a child with a disability which no one can see or understand; you exasperate your teachers, you disappoint your parents, and worst of all you know that you are not just stupid.

  • Disability is a matter of perception. If you can do just one thing well, you're needed by someone.