I was accompanying a friend to the doctor a couple weeks ago, and we were sitting in the waiting room, both of us using wheelchairs. We had the following conversation, or something very like it (I won’t get the details right, but this is the gist):
Her (to my staff): We need to find you a place to sit down. I forgot, you’re chair-impaired.
Staff: Actually I’m okay standing.
Her (gesturing around the waiting room): Just look at all this furniture devoted to your special needs. Hospitals must spend thousands of dollars buying chairs for the… uh… chair-challenged. They require assistive technology wherever they go.
Me: Yes, as a matter of fact, you and I can take our chairs with us, but those poor walking people all have to find places to sit. Must be such a drain on society…
Her: It’s quite a debilitating handicap. And very expensive. Well it’s true! They seem to want chairs to appear everywhere they go, and that costs a lot, all those chairs per person. It becomes quite a burden on those of us able-chaired people who don’t need them. And how you can expect any quality of life… I mean can you say that’s a life that’s worth all that money?
Me: Don’t forget lighting costs.
Her: Oh yes, lighting must cost billions of dollars for all those sighted people who can’t possibly function in the dark.
Me: Don’t forget all the signage, and so forth.
Her: Of course, you and I are both in that category, we’re both dark-impaired.
Me: There’s actually a cure for that one. Eye amputation.
Her: Oh yes, and of course the cure should be mandatory because otherwise we’d have to spend all this money accommodating them, when we could just do a little operation…
Me: I forgot, there’s also a cure for being a chair-impaired person… or is that a person with chair-impairedness? But yes, eye amputation is an option.
Her: Wasn’t there an article about that once, how to accommodate dark-impaired people?
Me: I think it was How to Talk to Sighted People…
Now keep in mind when picturing all this, that she’s got one of those unmodulated loud autistic voices, and I happened to have my keyboard turned up to full volume. My staff apparently really enjoyed watching people’s responses, especially since both my friend and I have had people loudly talk about how much we cost, and so forth, in public, before. Most people apparently found what we were saying funny. Which is good, we were goofing around and trying to keep our minds off the fact that we were in a hospital waiting room. But there was a serious statement somewhere in there about all this “social construction of impairment” stuff.