Laying It Out: Strong Language

Posted by Skin Stories in Disability Rights
October 24, 2017

By Antara Telang:

Panel A: Photograph of the author, Antara, surrounded by a cartoon frame, with devil’s horns and a moustache doodled on her face. Text reads: Hi. I’m Antara. I’m 25 years old. When I was 18, I had an accident that turned me from non-disabled to disabled overnight. Panel B: Illustration of a prosthetic leg. Text reads: I have an amputation now, and I wear a prosthetic leg. Yes, I have, in fact, been called a cyborg on multiple occasions. Panel C: Illustration of two similar looking people. One is smiling while the other looks sad. Text reads: Like me, many people with disabilities have experienced that casual language used to describe us can be painful, to say the least. Take my friend Dev.

Panel A: Illustration of two legs with rolled up jeans. One foot is straight, the other is dropped at a slight angle. Text reads: Dev had a neurological disease called GBS (Guillain Barrie Syndrome) when he was 13, leaving him with a foot drop even as an adult. Panel B: Illustration of the torso of a bald, middle-aged man with devil’s horns and trident. Text reads: His professor, to his face, called him a ‘langda ladka’ (a ‘lame boy’). Dev was hurt beyond belief when he was referred to this way by someone he respected. Panel C: Illustration of a young man who is sweating and looks worn out. Text reads: He worked himself to the bone so that he’d be known by his name and not as ‘langda’. He shouldn’t have to do that. Most of us don’t.

Panel A: Photograph of Antara in the cartoon frame again, except this time there are tears doodled over her face which form waves of water below. Text reads: I know what it feels like. Things that people have said in passing have ended up affecting my self-esteem for years. Panel B: Illustration of a woman wearing a short dress that reveals one prosthetic leg. She is smiling and has her hands on her hips. Text reads: Heli, who also has an amputation, was once wearing a knee-length dress. A stranger gave her some unwanted advice: ‘These things are not meant to be shown off.’ Panel C: Illustration of a young woman smiling slightly and looking to one side. She is showing the middle finger. Text reads: As women with disabilities, we hear shit like that all the time. So we usually either ignore it or ask people to mind their own business.

Panel A: Illustration of a pair of jeans with a sad face. It has a thought bubble of a short skirt. Text reads: But sometimes, it can play on our minds for a long time, and maybe the next time, we wear jeans instead of that skirt. Panel B: Illustration of a graduation cap that’s placed on top of a paper that has the words ‘Certificate of Sensitivity’ written on it.Text reads: Heli chooses to educate people who make ignorant comments like that, so that they (hopefully) don’t do it again. Panel C: Photograph of Antara with doodled steam coming out of her ears, an angry expression, fangs, and the word ‘WTF!’ on one side. Text reads: Personally, I snap and end up sulking through that day. I don’t think it’s my job to tell someone to behave with respect. I am not sure there’s a right answer here.

Panel A: Illustration of the Tinder flame logo and the text ‘You have five new matches!’ above it. Text reads: In my personal experience, most people assume I’m single. Because who’d want to be with me? As it turns out, quite a number of people. Panel B: Illustration of a diamond ring with a shocked expression and both hands on its cheeks. Text reads: Savitri has a disability too. She got married recently, and found several guests at the wedding openly expressing their surprise. Panel C: Illustration of two faces looking at each other. There are hearts between them, and both are smiling broadly. Text reads: Not because she was getting married. But utter shock that her husband was ‘young, good looking and non-disabled’. We’re not reject products, guys!

Panel A: Illustration of a man smiling and speaking. He has a speech bubble which has no words inside it, only a drawing of a garbage can. Text reads: A lot of times, when we joke, we tend to say ableist stuff. It’s so deeply embedded in language that, yes, people with disabilities do it too. Panel B: Illustration of the same man as the above panel — he is laughing so much that tears are coming out of his eyes. The words ‘HAHA!’ and ‘ROFL!’ are written around him.Text reads: ‘That joke is so lame!’ ‘Are you retarded?’ ‘He won’t understand, he’s dumb.’ Panel C: Photograph of Antara looking directly at the viewer. For the first time, there is nothing doodled on her face. Text reads: Take a step back. You may say something in passing, but it contributes to an ableist culture & to the lowered self-esteem of people with disabilities everywhere.

Disclaimer: Names have been changed to protect people’s privacy.


Antara is a Content Director at LaughGuru, an e-learning platform for kids. In her spare time, she backpacks, illustrates, and leaves feminist comments on Facebook posts.

This post was originally published on Skin Stories.