Podcast

In A Flash Episode 1: Call it What it Is

How do you talk to disabled people without saying the wrong thing? Start by "calling it what it is." A cane is a cane, not a fishing pole or a wizard's staff.

In A Flash Podcast Cover Image

In A Flash is a short, accessible, and sometimes irreverent podcast offering an introduction to topics important to disabled people and disability communities. This podcast is made for the Creativity in the Time of COVID-19: Art as a Tool for Combating Injustice and Inequity project at Michigan State University through the generous support of the Mellon Foundation.

[Mellow Downtempo tune softly plays]

JESSICA: Welcome to In A Flash a DisTopia conversation. This is our very first episode. So you might be wondering what we are and what we aren’t. I’m wondering too, but here’s how I’m summing it up for now at least, I’m not a super crip. So you won’t catch me in DC Comics or the forthcoming the Flash film. I am a disabled person here with a short, accessible and sometimes irreverent podcast, I’ll offer an introduction to topics important to disabled people and disability communities. For instance, if you had no idea what a super crip was, let me explain. So a super crip is a disabled person who is more or less overcoming their disability. When you see a disabled character on screen, this is often part of the story. So for instance, Daredevil, he’s blind, but he’s also an oh so capable lawyer, and he is also more or less able to see with his other senses. It’s not me, I’m disabled and a mess. I’ve got stories, takeaways and disability culture all in 15 minutes or less. Hopefully along with the mass you’ll find me informative, fun and brief. Because last time I checked, I wasn’t wearing boxers. Today I’m joined by my co-host, Anna Forest. Welcome, Anna.

ANNA: Alright, let’s get into it. Hi, everyone. I’m Anna. I am a mildly caffeine deprived third year college student studying psychology and I am currently recording from my bedroom.

JESSICA: Yes, I am an overly caffeinated disabled poet and educator Jessica Suzanne Stokes. I’m super smiley with big red hair. If you see me in person, I’d have either my green cane or purple wheelchair, my ways of getting from here to there.

ANNA: So today, our topic is language and calling it what it is. A couple of disclaimers before we get right into it. This podcast is for both disabled and nondisabled people alike. But these are our opinions. Personally, I think they’re good ones, but it’s important to remember that the disability community is not one homogenous group. We all have different voices. Some of us don’t even speak with vocal cords. And it’s important to keep that in mind as you go about your life talking to disabled people.

JESSICA: So let’s start with the basic, basic basics. And then we’ll dive into stories that will speak to everybody about sort of experiences around this topic. So the basics of calling it what it is. Have you ever looked at a cane and thought, “What should I call this mobility enhancing piece of aluminum? Perhaps a wizard staff?” I want you to go back in that thought right back there to the word cane real simple. You had it? Were people like you and if some of us are magic, I’m wondering why I haven’t gotten my letter to attend wizarding school. Next, have you ever encountered a fabulous disabled person and thought to yourself, now what should I call them? Gorgeous? Phenomenal? Erudite? Call me, Jessica. But seriously, start with their name. And have you ever wanted to refer to the disability community as a whole want to not to insult us? So you’ve found yourself avoiding that word disabled with every slice of your soul? I want you to say it, say the word disabled. It’s not a dirty word.

ANNA: It’s so funny, Jessica, because all those three examples have happened to me and I think have happened to a lot of the disabled community. Right. And I think what maybe people don’t understand is that a lot of these people that are skirting around the word or talking in circles, they are scared, they’re afraid that they might offend us or make us feel uncomfortable. And honestly, I also think there’s a little bit of pity there. They don’t want to say the word disabled, maybe they don’t know that we know that we’re disabled, right? Or maybe they think that we’re a little bit less than or not as capable as them because we are disabled. So I think the pity also has some aspect of that as well. But what they don’t understand is by skirting around, by not saying the word, by talking in circles or really avoiding that word with all of their soul. It’s making it a lot more uncomfortable and honestly a lot more offensive than if they were to just say the word for what it is disabled.

JESSICA: Right or that they may think they’re just scared of hurting our feelings, but it comes off as them being scared of us.

ANNA: Exactly.

JESSICA: I think your example makes it oh so clear. Yeah, so our episodes may be brief, but they are mighty. We’ll start by introducing you to a topic important to disabled people. Today’s topic, Call It What It Is, then we’ll lean in and limp through some stories to help you connect that topic to everyday life. Finally, we’ll end with practical takeaways. This isn’t just an info dump, but a way to change your everyday.

ANNA: All right, let’s get into some stories. So immediately when I heard about this topic, I was like, oh, my gosh, I have a million things to say about this. And I have so many experiences just walking around in the community as a blind person with people just not really even knowing what to say to me, right. It’s kind of interesting, the different things that they call my cane. It’s been called a stick, a walker, a walking stick. At some point, someone even thought it was a fishing pole.

JESSICA: Wait what? [laughs] You may have to tell me more about that one.

ANNA: To be fair I was on a pier & I guess it does bear some similarity minus the reel & you know the string, but he’s forgiven. It was a it was a reasonable mistake. Another thing that happened that actually reminded me of it, Jessica, when you were talking about the wizarding staff in your earlier introduction, was I actually went to Universal Studios in Orlando when I was a little bit younger. We went to Harry Potter World. And you know, wands, and wizardry staffs are very, very common there. So we were in Ollivanders Wand Shop. And in this one shop, he does a demonstration, where he picks one person to wave the wand and in the end, they get to keep it right.

JESSICA: So, basically get their Hogwarts letter?

ANNA: Exactly, exactly. Yeah. And I wanted it so bad. Here I am little 13 year old me like, “Pick Me Pick Me Please. Help.” Right. And so I really wanted to get picked. Unfortunately, I was not. And he picked some other little boy who might have been a little bit more deserving. But you know, I don’t care. I was pissed, But in the end, he comes back and he looks at me and he goes, “Oh, well, I thought you already had a wand”, obviously pointing to my cane, right? And I’m like, okay, here, I am very disappointed. To be fair, it was kind of funny, I guess. But I just thought it was really interesting how what was meant to be a joke in the earlier part of the episode actually can happen in real life. And that’s just to get into the things that people have called my cane, not even to mention the things that people try to do to avoid saying the word blind. I’m like, my goodness, it is a five letter word. But really, they do like to avoid it like the Black Plague. Sometimes they say visually impaired, sighted impaired, I’ve gotten person without sight a couple of times. It’s just so much easier to say one small little word rather than to go in circles and to ramble about things that don’t even really make sense to my situation, right?

JESSICA: Yes, I am thrilled to be in conversation with a badass blind student and the human being named Anna today. And, yeah, I just wish that people would say the word, call it what it is, lean into thinking about disability as an enjoyable part of everyday life. And part of what makes it vibrant. Okay, so my story on the topic is, yeah, I just want to take you there. So picture this, we’re at the DMV in Davis, California, five hot sticky hours of waiting have passed. Basically, my butt is sticking to that squeaky plastic of the chair at this particular moment. And it’s not a great scenario. But it’s finally my turn, I get up to the desk. And there’s a smiling woman, shock, that seems like it’s a happy DMV experience, not the stereotype. I have every document there except for I was not given one of the correct forms that I needed at the beginning and it requires some object from my car. So I’m told by the women at the desk that it’s fine if I go get it and come back in. I go get it. I come back in and she has poofed. I don’t know who used their magical cane to do it, but I’m gonna find them track them down and figure out what’s going on. So I have to start the line over.

ANNA: Ohhh

JESSICA: Yeah, the wait times now. More than five hours I am internally screaming similar to that Uhhhh noise you just made, Anna. I’m also near tears that sort of like anger has turned into frustration has turned into falling apart. And I’m trying not to call attention to myself and my big red hair and purple wheelchair but I take up a fair amount of space in the world. And so I’m noticed and another woman who’s been waiting in the DMV for a long time, she starts gesturing emphatically and she wants to help in her own way. And so along with the gesture comes this line: “The handicaps go to the front of the line” she says, “the sign says the handicaps go to the front of the line.” Now, I turn to look at the sign and it’s the universal symbol for access perhaps you’ve encountered it little white stick figure sitting in a cup C on a blue background situation and it does not say anywhere “the handicaps” but at this point everyone in this swarming mass of people making this wait time creep higher and higher has turned to look at me. They’re looking at me, they’re like looking at the sign and I’m just they’re thinking, “The handicaps? Why the article?” And will I ever be a person again? I wish that I had had the energy to correct this sort of moment. But I said nothing. Perhaps everyone there is now out in the world calling disabled people, the handicaps. I accepted my trip to the front of the line and the stranger’s questionably worded but deeply felt advocacy because I don’t want to get a bed sore waiting for more time. Now though, I’m not so sweaty and just did a smell check. It’s all right here in this kitchen of mine. And I can right my wrong. Dear Advocate, I presume since you wanted to help you wouldn’t mind learning this too. Disabled people do indeed go to the front of the line at the California DMV. Again, that’s disabled people.

ANNA: Oh my gosh, Jessica, I was internally screaming with you throughout that entire story. The cringe was so palpable there. And just the fact that it made everyone in the room more uncomfortable, right? Not just you but also the person pointing at the sign, the people around you. No one felt at ease. I think that just goes to show that saying the word is a lot easier and comfortable than trying to skirt around it. But takeaways.

[Mellow Downtempo tune briefly plays]

I think the major one is to make sure that you listen to the disabled people in your life and what they want to be referred to as if someone says, “call my cane a walker.” You should call it a walker. If someone says, “Call me the handicaps or call me sighted impaired”, you should do that too. Right? These are just the things that are more widely accepted in the disabled community. But it’s important to keep in mind that we are individuals. We are not all the same person. We’re not one homogenous group. And don’t be afraid to say the words that describes us.

JESSICA: Right? Respect our choices and then start saying that word disabled. Say it in the mirror, say to your pillow before bed. Say it all the time. Say the Word is a social media campaign started by disabled performer activist and spokesperson Lawrence Carter-Long. His original post on the subject said if you see the person not the disability, you’re only getting half the picture. You gotta broaden your perspective and you might be surprised by everything you’ve missed. #SayTheWord. Check it out on Twitter and keep learning from disabled people. Now get out of here. Go forth. You’ve got work to do.

[Mellow Downtempo tune softly playing in the background]

Guest: Anna Forest

Host: Jessica Stokes

Audio Producer: Taylor Kaigler

Transcript: Taylor Kaigler

Music: Hammond by Waiting for Sound

[The cover for this podcast is a photo embedded in a sea of flashy colors. The photo shows a white wheelchair user with wild red hair and a blue dress. The hair and dress blow in the salt air of a pier. Their bright red leather gloves clash energetically with an orange life preserver next to them. Cutting the yellow background of the image in half is a blue audio wavelength, peaking and dipping as it radiates out from the picture. The image is surrounded by orange, red, and pink semicircles and lines that crisscross like frenetic scribbles. The text reads: DisTopia. In a Flash. Episode 1: Call It What It Is. Hosted by Jessica Suzanne Stokes.]

 

 


Episode 1: Call It What It Is (Trailer)

[Mellow Downtempo tune softly playing in the background]

JESSICA:  Welcome to In A Flash, A DisTopia conversation. I’ve got stories, takeaways, and disability culture all in 15 minutes or less. We’ll start by introducing you to a topic important to disabled people, then we’ll lean in and limp through some stories to help you connect that topic to everyday life. Finally, we’ll end with practical takeaways. This isn’t just an info dump, but a way to change your every day. Our episodes may be brief, but they are mighty. 

ANNA: If someone says call my cane a walker, you should call it a walker. If someone says call me the handicaps or call me sighted impaired you should do that too. We are not all the same person, we’re not one homogenous group and don’t be afraid to say the words that describe us. 

JESSICA: Respect our choices and then start saying that word disabled. Now, get out of here. Go forth! You’ve got work to do. 

[Mellow Downtempo tune softly playing in the background]

 

Guest: Anna Forest

Host: Jessica Stokes

Audio Producer: Taylor Kaigler

Transcript: Taylor Kaigler

Music: Hammond by Waiting for Sound

 

[The cover for this podcast is a photo embedded in a sea of flashy colors. The photo shows a white wheelchair user with wild red hair and a blue dress. The hair and dress blow in the salt air of a pier. Their bright red leather gloves clash energetically with an orange life preserver next to them. Cutting the yellow background of the image in half is a blue audio wavelength, peaking and dipping as it radiates out from the picture. The image is surrounded by orange, red, and pink semicircles and lines that crisscross like frenetic scribbles. The text reads: DisTopia. In a Flash. Episode 1: Call It What It Is. Hosted by Jessica Suzanne Stokes.]