How do you react when you see a disabled person? Do you avert your eyes because you were told that staring is rude? Do you avoid walking past them, or simply ignore them as if they didn’t exist?
Do you call them “retarded” — in your mind, or as a joke with friends because, even though you know it’s wrong, you also know it will illicit a laugh? Or do you quietly ask someone a question about the disabled person, genuinely curious but not thinking about how that question may affect someone else?
Do you assume, because you’ve ignored them, that they can’t hear you?
These are the questions raised by Miranda Diller in her short video project Heard Whilst Disabled. In it, disabled people hold up signs stating the things that they have heard people say about them, either directly or as if they couldn’t hear the question. The images primarily come from a Chatterbox Challenge last year, which used the hashtag #heardwhilstdisabled to spread the message via social media.
Diller, who is featured predominantly at the start and end of the video, explains that she created it, “for people to know that not every disability is visible, that not all pain is obvious.” She initially created it for a school English project, but says this was “just a conveniently timed coincidence.”
“I’ve been treated badly for my disabilities and also witnessed massive amounts of merciless discrimination,” she explains. “I have been abandoned by my peers, belittled and verbally abused by school officials. I’m hoping that education will help people not have such a horrible stigma around us.”
The signs are at times hilarious, at other times heartbreaking, but in all they force us to think about how we approach disabled people. Even good people attempting to interact out of the goodness of their hearts can make mistakes, and this video brings at message to light.
“I just want people to know that disabled people come in all different forms, some visible and some invisible,” she says. “We can hear you. We see you stare and redirect your children away from us. If you are curious [about us] ask. Most of us are happy to explain to you or your curious child. We are human, and all forms of discrimination hurt.”