The idle ramblings of a Jack of some trades, Master of none

Mar 25, 2008


Just saw this week's India Today, which has an article titled Netrimony (The New Mating Game). It's all about how the youth of today find their spouses online after subjecting them to various stringent tests of acceptance. More power to them, I say, but that's not what this post is about.

Here's one excerpt from the article

He is: A techie based in Bangalore.
She is: From Kolkata; has a hearing disability.
His parents: Wanted a girl from the same caste.
Her parents: Were afraid that he won't be able to understand her problems.
Love: Blossomed and he worked hard at convincing his parents. Shweta's hearing disability did not deter Sudarshan from his decision to marry her.
Wedded: February 15, 2006.
The story: Shweta had lots of ifs and buts about a relationship with a normal man.
The italics above are mine.

The normality of unhandicapped people is notorious, of course.

A few years ago, in an article about the discrimination faced by disabled folks, I read about a paraplegic woman on board an aircraft in the US. The air-hostess asked her to remain seated while all the other passengers readied themselves to disembark. "Wait until all the normal people get off," she said kindly to the woman.

Now disabled people are certainly not the norm (at least, not in the US; very likely similar numbers exist for the rest of the peaceful world). Strictly speaking, therefore, they are not normal.

I wonder, though: is this usage justified? Courteous? Nice?


Shefaly said...

Feanor: Thought provoking post! Note that I could have said 'nice post' and meant nothing. To be unspecific and non-committal is a malady of the human condition.

That said the usage 'non-disabled' has considerable currency, double negatives notwithstanding.

Just out of interest, what do you think the airhostess should have said, noting that the term 'airhostess' is no longer used to refer to the stewardesses. ;-)

The issue of disability is a latent and largely-ignored one. But when we do bring it up - we as non-disabled people - it does bring up more points of view than we imagined. I wrote this post on the Indian Economy blog some months ago. See what you think:

Fëanor said...

Shefaly: I hope when you said 'thought-provoking', you didn't mean provocative thoughts :-).

I think the stewardess (although in these PC times, I guess the correct expression is in-flight crew member, there being some sort of stigma attached to -ess endings to signify the female gender) could have said something like, "It's difficult to bring the wheelchair when everyone's crowding the exits, so could you please wait until they all disembark?"

Thanks for the link to your IE post. I think it is incumbent on the 'normal' population to make the adjustments required to allow the disabled to lead as 'normal' a quality of life as possible. If this means sticking Braille signs on elevator buttons, or beeping sounds to signal a traffic crossing, or ramps to allow wheelchair access, or promoting the use of TDD devices, and so on, then the cost is very well worth it. The points you raise in your essay are good ones. Something like the Americans with Disabilities Act worked very well in the US, although there was much complaint initially about the cost of implementing it. It might be used as a suitable model elsewhere.

Anonymous said...

don't you think you should get the 'disabled' peoples' perspective on stuff too.

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