If someone finds out I’m hard of hearing, one common response is, “But you look so normal!” Since I first confronted that statement as a junior in college, I now know how to feel when someone says it. I have made peace with the implication of the statement because I know the idea comes from ignorance. With a little bit of patience, time, and education, the inference of “But you look so normal!” can easily fade.
What is still a stumbling block for me is when people tell me, “But I don’t see you as disabled!” This statement is one that is far more common than “But you look so normal!”. Variations of it have been applied to other minorities, who have responded by discussing the destructiveness of this idea. Most notably, George Takei wrote a blog post called “I Don’t Even Think of You as Gay.” “Well, You Should.” which explained why it matters for a gay individual to be recognized by their peers. When talking about ignoring characteristics that make one a minority, Takei said: “That person has likely suffered internal conflict, social opprobrium, and personal pain that you have never experienced. So long as there is prejudice and inequality, it will continue to matter.” Absolutely is Takei correct in this idea, but where it becomes complicated (for me, at least) is in the consequences of being seen as “disabled.”