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Don’t be afraid of offending with ableist rhetoric, student with disability writes

Politically correct campus culture dictates that students and schools avoid “ableist” rhetoric like the word “walking.” But one student doesn’t mind when friends use the “w-word,” and instead criticizes some of the aspects of PC culture for creating “a great, huge pile of awkwardness and a reluctance to take the conversation any further.”

Tilly Griffiths, a writer for The Stanford Daily, writes about how she views her wheelchair as “an integral part of who I am.”

“It is for this reason that I find it entirely acceptable to refer to myself as ‘walking to class’ or ‘standing over here,’ and I think you should too,” she writes.

Griffiths acknowledges that attempts to avoid offending her come from a place of good intentions. “The point of this article is in no way to undermine these attempts to include me in conversational vocabulary as I know they are born from the best intentions,” she explains. “All I simply mean to convey is that I will not be offended by the ‘w-word,’ and fear of offending me should not be a barrier to further social interaction.”

Griffiths notes that common sense will dictate that some things are offensive to say, but “difficulties arise only when fear of being politically incorrect inhibits the natural flow of human interaction.”

In the end, “the easiest way to diffuse any lingering awkwardness is quite simply just to ask.”

She concludes with a note of gratitude for Stanford’s community: “In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I am thankful for having arrived in a place like Stanford where people are willing to work through those initial seconds of uncertainty with regards to my disability and seek meaningful relationships with me that go beyond whether I ‘walk’ or ‘wheel’ and see me as simply ‘Tilly’.”

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