People with certain disabilities often have heavy disability accents. Their speech can sound very different from the way most nondisabled people speak.
People with disabilities that affect communication are often pushed into separate programs, particularly in adulthood. Even when they are in the same classes in the same schools, there isn’t much of an expectation that any peers listen to them. This was even more true a generation ago. As a result, most people without disabilities are lousy at understanding people with disability accents, and don’t understand that this is a glaring hole in their social skills.
Many unskilled people tend to maybe ask people with disability accents to repeat themselves once, and then they get frustrated and start ignoring them. Sometimes they pretend to understand, and smile and nod rather than actually listening. Sometimes they hang up on them. Sometimes they pass them off to another person, who also doesn’t bother to actually listen. Sometimes they hang up. If they are medical workers, sometimes they write on a chart that someone is impossible to understand or has no communication (particularly if that person also has an intellectual disability.)
Do not be this person. If you can’t understand someone with a disability accent, the problem is your skills, not their voice. (If you have a receptive language disability that prevents you from learning to understand accents, then it’s no one’s fault and you need an interpreter to communicate. Neither their voice nor your brain is wrong. In that situation, the skill you need to develop is finding an interpreter).
If you listen, and make it clear that you are listening, you will learn to understand, and you will be able to communicate successfully with more people.
An important phrase for this is “I’m having trouble understanding what you’re saying, but I care what you are saying.”
Make sure it’s true, and keep listening. The more you listen, the easier it will be to understand. Understanding . And practice. You get better with practice.
Too many people are ignored because others can’t be bothered to understand their accents. You can make this better by listening (and by insisting that people you supervise listen.)
I’d like to add that “finding an interpreter” is not necessarily the only option, or even always most effective option, assuming “an interpreter” = “another human”.
If speaker and listener both have reading & writing skills in the same language (or even if just the speaker can write and the listener can read) then the two can communicate in writing, and not have to involve a third person.
If at least one has an Augmentative & Alternative Communication (AAC) device, then that could sometimes be used too.
I work in retail and have auditory processing difficulties. With customers and coworkers who share my dialect of English, I still find myself asking for repetition, or re-wording. Recently, I had to ask a customer who needed an item placed on hold to repeat herself about five times, as our interaction was over the phone, and there was too much background noise on both our ends.
When I get customers who do not share my dialect of English (speaking a dialect from a distant part of United States, or who have English as their second language) the amount of repetition/re-wording needed increases. If there is no assistance available to the two of us, I will lead the customer to the part of the store I think contains what they’re searching for. If I have misunderstood them, they tell me, and we try to find more descriptions and alternative phrasing, until either we do find what they need, or rope in more coworkers, or traverse the whole store and find that we don’t carry what they seek.
In the case of English-as-second-language customers, many do bring their own interpreter, often a relative, and between the three of us, a similar process as the above goes down, but much faster.
Highly effective are the customers who bring a smart phone, tablet, or other AAC device; computer-translated vocabulary isn’t always as exact or nuanced as needed, but it eliminates auditory processing issues from the equation, and the customer is also able to show me pictures.
Customers who share my dialect and have no noticeable disability accent also benefit from bringing AAC devices with them shopping, because if they can access the store’s website and find the product code, we can search our inventory, something we’re not able to do with just a description/name. Or they show me pictures of what they want, and while we might not have the same product, I can find them something similar. Corporate encourages use of such tech, offering coupons/sales/discounts through multiple platforms.
Summary of my thoughts: human interpreters are one of many communication options, alongside writing, computers, etc. Which will be the most effective or practical varies contextually.
Today I learned that the Curiosity sang itself ‘Happy Birthday’ on its year anniversary of being on Mars.
Hundreds of thousands of miles from anyone or anything.
Guys I am depressed over robots now.
oh god this is the saddest thing i have ever read
Guys, shhh. No, this isn’t sad.
Curiosity isn’t hundreds of thousands of miles from anyone or anything. Curiosity has Spirit, Opportunity, Mars 3, Sojourner, Viking 1, and Viking 2 to keep him company on the red planet.
Opportunity is still exploring; Spirit, while still functional, is stuck in a crater, so cannot move around very much. The rest of them are quiet, asleep; old and beautiful and dignified in their silence
Curiosity sang Happy Birthday to himself and he had Spirit and Opportunity with him—and he had an entire planet down below to celebrate his life, his achievements, his brilliance
Curiosity sang Happy Birthday to celebrate an entire year of doing what he was designed to do; an entire year of exploring a planet on which he was not born, an entire year of roving and collecting information
an entire year of Mars becoming his home to share with his precursors, several of which are miraculously still doing their jobs (Opportunity was only expected to last 90 days; he’s lasted TEN YEARS)
it was a song of absolute euphoric joy, not one of loneliness
Curiosity is the exact opposite of lonely; he has hundreds of thousands of people down below who adore him, family at ground control to communicate with him constantly; and plenty of kin on the red planet’s surface to keep him company.
This is the exact opposite of sad.
We didn’t abandon the Mars robots. We sent them home.
“To make sure they’re not mistreated?” said Moist.
“To make sure they’re not forgotten."
— Going Postal, Terry Pratchett, 2004
Also, re: that last reblog — the idea of ‘appropriating’ disability is already a key component of ableism. If you allow this idea to exist, as it currently seems to be spreading on tumblr, you ignore the context in which it’s happening. That context is: disabled people are already told that we couldn’t possibly be disabled, because well, you can walk sometimes. Or you can talk sometimes. Or I saw you make yourself a sandwich the other day — why can’t you do it now? Or, if you would just try a little harder. I know you could do it if you’d just apply yourself. You must be faking it. Nobody really feels or thinks or experiences that.
of course, the word ‘appropriation’ isn’t used, but THAT IS ABLEISM, and if you take the diluted way tumblr uses the word ‘appropriation’ and apply it to disability? you literally just get ableism.
There are some things that might seem similar to appropriation of disability, that are worth talking about. For example, how non-disabled actors get a lot of praise for playing disabled characters in movies. That’s a thing.
but overall, ‘appropriation’ means ‘stealing’ — and honestly, at this point in time, we do not have a wealth of people jumping to steal disability experience and culture because they think it’s cool. or because they think it would make them money. in fact, the idea that people do this — pretend to be disabled to gain imaginary benefits — is an ableist myth.
so by all means, bring in the concept of appropriating disability when there are more than 2 non-disabled people in the world who would apply the word ‘cool’ or ‘lucrative’ to disability culture. right now we’re just fucking gross. and most of the disabled people i know would be thrilled to work toward a world in which ANYONE, regardless of disability, is allowed to use the accommodations they need. that’s what ‘universal design’ means. non-disabled people use assistive technology and do weird things all the time, it’s just that those things are normalized. and we want to bring attention to that.
we WANT to make a world where, if someone is flapping their hands, nobody stops them and says ‘you know, you’re insulting people who are REALLY autistic. are you sure you’re not pretending? are you sure you’re not just copying them? try harder.’
I am autistic and my parents have said things like that to me.
I do not care whether the person in the above anecdote is in fact autistic, or has ADHD or Tourette’s, or is in fact completely neurotypical, because either way, the idea hurts me and mine.
The idea that if you’re doing something disabled people do, you must be faking or stealing or copying or doing it wrong. If you make this idea a social justice idea, you primarily hurt disabled people.
You’ve got it backwards. We want everyone to be able to function as it works best for them, labels immaterial, societal barriers immaterial.