Guest Post: We Laugh It Off
If you aren't familiar with the work of Jessica and Lianna of The Disabled Life, you're in for a treat. Their work of these delightful Canadian sisters illustrates everyday life from the perspective of a person with a disability. Relatable for others in similar circumstances, and hopefully enlightening for able-bodied viewers. Humor and art can be effective tools in empowering AND expanding understanding. Enjoy!
When you’re born with a physical disability, you’ll most likely experience awkward situations at one point or another, due to peoples’ lack of experience with said disability. Whether it be weird comments, inaccessible places that claim to be accessible (thus ruining your night’s plans), or just dealing with realities that most people don’t have to face, life will throw you some curve balls (yay sports reference).
“But how do Jessica and Lianna of The Disabled Life deal with it” you probably didn’t ask?
Well we’ll tell you! We’d love to be able to say something really cool, like “oh we broke down barriers” or “we took on the entire anti-accessible establishment”. There are in fact people who do that on the daily (and we applaud you all). But sadly, being really polite Canadians who grew up with an empathetic perspective towards naive able-bodied folk, all we really do is laugh it off.
A good dose of sarcasm, shamelessness, and laughter seems to be our preferred way of handling the world around us. Growing up it took a little bit of practice. We’d be lying if we said there weren’t nights spent crying because we couldn’t go to a birthday party, or were too tired to even leave the house.
But in the grand scheme of life, it seemed like a less productive way of handling things. So we instinctively became sarcastic adults. We certainly have a lot of material to work with, like constantly being told we’re twins. That’s right, a stranger knows better than us in this matter. Maybe we are twins, and were just lied to our whole lives? This is all sarcasm by the way. See? And this is the typical routine we’ve actually played out with a complete stranger before:
Weirdly Pushy Lady (WPL): “Are you girls twins?” Us: “We get that a lot, but no! We’re two years apart.” WPL: “No, you must be twins.” Us: “…. Noo, you’d think, but despite the odds our parents decided to have another!” WPL: “You have to be twins.” Us: “... You know what, yep you’re right.” WPL: *probably thinks to herself* Knew it.
But when we’re not being total pricks, we like to make spectacles of ourselves! We’ve always said if people are going to stare anyway, might as well put on a show. We’ve done this many times in many different ways, like shrieking at the top of our lungs, or racing in hallways. But our all time favourite show has to be “That Time We Wanted A Bike”, staring our father, Lianna, Jessica, and a painfully embarrassed (but still laughing) mother.
The four of us were passing beautiful children’s bike (keep in mind we were teens at the time) at a store. The kind of bikes that were sparkly, that had pink ribbons and baskets, the kind we can’t ride because we can’t ride bikes. Knowing very well that we had absolutely NO USE for these bikes, we drove up to the glorious instruments of transportation, and shamelessly yelled “DADDDYYYYYY, WE WANT A BIIKEEE!” Now our father loves the opportunity to say no, especially knowing we were being ridiculous on purpose. He lovingly exclaimed, “No, what are you going to use them for?” And our mother, always worrying about our volume level in public places, quietly reminded us to tone it down. Apparently people could hear. But that just meant “show-time girls”.
We screamed significantly louder than before, “DADDY. WEEEEE WANNNT THE BIKEE!!!!” In front of a shocked and mortified child (also shopping for bikes), our papa logically retorted, “YOU CAN’T RIDE A BIKE! YOU’RE IN WHEELCHAIRS.” This debate continued for a few more moments, until mom felt the need to physically remove herself from the situation, and walk away. What did we gain from all this? Absolutely nothing. What did the mortified child learn? Probably to appreciate the fact that she was getting a bike, even though some grown teenagers can’t. You’re welcome, scared child.
Clearly, we’re not the most appropriate people to be giving advice on how to deal with awkward situations. 90% of the time, we are the awkward situation. It’s not even really disability related, it’s pretty much our personalities. Though the chairs do add a certain “wow” factor for some reason.
The take-away from this weird journey we took you on should really be: life is awkward. People are awkward. Buildings are awkward. We’re freaking awkward. But at the end of the day, it’s actually pretty funny, so you might as well laugh it off… apparently it burns calories, and since walking isn’t our thing, might as well get a work out where we can!
Thanks, Jessica and Lianna!
Checkout more of their work at http://www.thedisabledlife.tumblr.com/