What is normal? Who is normal? (Encore presentation)

This post first aired in November of 2009. It still seems timely. Perhaps it’s just timeless. Here you go, another Daisy Classic.

“But you seem so normal!” It was a phrase in a post from Deafmom, a post she titled¬†“You’re not really deaf, are you?”¬†This one got me thinking – a dangerous pastime, I know.

Normal = neuro-typical, non disabled.
Normal = typical, following the norm.
Normal = expected, unsurprising.
Normal = cool forehead, no fever.
Normal = just another sheep following the herd.

Is Normal good or bad? Is Normal something in between? Is Normal static or a constant state of change? Is Normal a comfort level, don’t rock the boat, or is Normal that’s-the-way-we’ve-always-done-it?

  • Does Normal have an IEP (Individualized Education Plan)?
  • Does Normal need an adapted cell phone?
  • Does Normal stay in the background or insist on action?
  • Is Normal pink, red, or mauve?
  • Does Normal get on the right track, just stand there and wait to get run over?
  • Does Normal slow for yellow lights or speed up?
  • Does Normal walk to school or take her lunch?

The last one is the really telling question. “Normal” in the sense of non-disabled or neuro-typical is a label that doesn’t really make sense. It implies that the disabled person is someone out of the norm, out of the mainstream, off the track. It implies that the person with a disability isn’t one of the crowd, sticks out, doesn’t belong.

“Normal” doesn’t need to be eliminated from the language. Normal is, after all, a city in Illinois. But all of us, not just the so-called Normal folk, need to think before we speak. Telling a disabled person that they are not Normal is inaccurate, hurtful, and just wrong.

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