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Date: 2009-09-25 10:47 pm (UTC)
leora: a statue of a golden snake swallowing its own tail. (ouroboros)
From: [personal profile] leora
Throw out the never ask questions rule. That's a crap rule. However, you may want to learn to ask, "May I ask you something about your disability?" The key thing I've seen in disability communities is that people don't want to feel like they are obligated to explain. The explanation may be long and complex, and they may not feel up to going through it again. However, most people with disabilities are okay explaining things most of the time. If you're willing to see if they feel up to a question, and also willing to accept, "Actually, that's really complicated." or "I don't want to go into that" then generally asking is the best course if the issue is coming up. Just don't act as if you're entitled to an answer and you should usually be okay.

As to offensive words like "spaz", well, you won't know every offensive term. I have found terms that are racist when reading through lists of such things that I had absolutely no idea had racial connotations. I think the best course is to just accept that you'll mess up sometimes, but strive to remove such terms when you can. For example, I have removed "Indian summer" and "gypped" from my general usage, since both have offensive roots.

The problem with "spaz" is that it does refer to a medical condition and those who have that condition usually hear it as an insult. ~They~ know what it means. The problem with "lame" is that the root is to deliberately imply that this thing is worthless or bad just like someone who can't walk very well. The history of how people with disabilities have been treated is really, really bad. It wasn't that long ago that lots of them were forcibly sterilized and/or systematically murdered. To this day people with disabilities get all sorts of bizarre and often condescending treatment that implies they are not a full human being. With such an environment, it's easy for those implications to be read into things. So even though you personally mean well, it won't necessarily come across.

And I do think you can say things like, "I see what you mean" or "It won't hurt for me to do this", but I do think telling someone else doing something won't hurt them is likely best only if you have good reason to believe you are right. But it's also part of the general category that one should be careful telling other people how they work.

I'm especially touchy about that because my mother has a bad habit of just making statements about how I feel about something or my reaction to something just based on how she thinks I should feel. The most bizarre example was we went to see a movie together and when it was over she turned to me and said, "You liked that." It wasn't a question. We hadn't had a chance to say anything about it. She had pretty much no basis for knowing my opinion of it, but there she was telling me what I thought. I prefer not to assume I know how someone else will feel or think about something.

But in general, I don't think you need to be too careful about avoiding things. The rubbing someone's face in it isn't likely to come up much. It'd be more like saying things like, "Jogging is great exercise and everyone should do it." to someone who can't walk. They're probably going to get annoyed at the second half since it excludes them from being part of "everyone" (Oh sorry, by "everyone" I just meant normal people, you know, the people who actually count) or it states that they should be jogging and tsk tsk that they no longer can do what they ought to do.
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