I attended the Australian Sign Language Interpreters Association awards of the Victorian branch on Saturday. As always it was a lavish affair and a great time was had by all. I am not much for the awards part, though I have enormous respect for all the winners, but I love the floor show and catching up with everyone. On Saturday there was an 8 inch comedienne telling disability jokes.
OK! Stella Young is slightly taller than 8 inches but she is very short and gets about in a wheelchair. She also pokes fun at societies attitude towards disability. Some of us thought it was hilarious others cringed and let their jaws drop. In particular Ms Young poked fun at labels – you know special needs, differently-abled, handicapped – all these labels.
All largely made up by non disabled. These labels are designed to take the stigma out of disability. Paradoxically they do the exact opposite.
Ms Young has apparently never been asked for a ticket on a bus or a train. She gets on trains and ticket inspectors just walk past her. Being 8 inches tall and in a wheelchair it is very hard not to notice her.
She claimed it was her lifelong ambition to get a fine. She wanted to be fined just like everyone else who gets caught for not buying a ticket. One day the inspector passed her by so she called out, hoping to draw attention to the fact, that she didn’t have a ticket. The inspector came back and gave her one.
It is Ms Young’s ability to poke fun at society attitudes and her self that makes her so very funny. Incredibly UN-PC, but extremely funny.
For me the fascination with coming up with PC labels for disability groups is a pet gripe. If people spent half as much time focusing on changing perceptions, promoting the skill-set that people with a disability have or explaining just how much the disability economy contributes financially to Australia as they did trying to come up with a non-offensive labels then people with disabilities might make progress.
Instead they debate, ad-infinitum, whether to put the person before the disability, or to take the dis out of disability, whether to say differently-abled or my all time un-favourite – people with differing abilities. These attempts at political correctness make me cringe.
I am reminded of a wonderful old man that had lost his hearing. A group of us were discussing whether to use the terms deaf, hearing impaired or hard of hearing. Of course we all know Deaf with a capital D refers to members of the Deaf community, which is fine as it refers to their identity.
But what of the others who largely see their hearing loss as a pain in the proverbial. My view is pick one and be done with it. But of course people have different views. By and large, later deafened adults (another label) in Australia prefer the term hearing impaired.
The Deaf community in Australia are trying to impose the term hard of hearing on them because this is what is recognised by the World federation of the Deaf. The old man who I referred to a paragraph two above was having none of it – “Look!”, he said, “I don’t know about you but my hearing loss in no way arouses me.”
There was a stunned silence as people in the room tried to make sense of what he had just said. The penny dropped and, as one, the room cracked up laughing . What this highlights is that one persons PC is often another’s UN-PC. It is an un-winnable debate that takes up far too much of our time and energy.
To PC or not to PC ? It is not a question that can be answered. One persons PC is another’s not PC. I just wish people would worry more about the things that really matter.