“If we don’t laugh, we’ll cry. So why not laugh? It may not be funny now, but it will be one day. I think. I hope, because sometimes, hope is all we have.”
A few years ago, I was having dinner with two of my blind friends. We started trading stories of times when we struggled to use basic amenities while staying in hotel rooms alone. Struggling to distinguish between the regular and decaf coffee without reading the labels, or to find the climate controls (which were conveniently on the far opposite side of the room from the air vents). I shared the story of the time I was staying at Gallaudet University, and I couldn’t figure out why I could hear nothing on the TV but static. I called for help, only to be told that I’d accidentally placed the television in a silent mode for deaf viewers. Another time, a power outlet in my hotel room appeared to be broken, and after several days and having an electrician look at it, it turned out that the outlet only worked when the room lights were turned on-and as a blind person I’d missed that fact.
As my friends and I shared these stories, we began to laugh. One person would laugh, which would make the next person laugh harder, and so on. When I finally caught my breath, I thought about how a bystander probably would have no idea why we were laughing so hard about bumbling around in a dark hotel room trying to use the TV or the hair dryer. My husband would probably only somewhat get the joke. To most uninitiated sighted people, the situation would be sad or strange, but to us it was hilarious.
But what happens when a disability-related situation is more than just an inconvenience? What about the times when we encounter discrimination, hostility, abuse, extreme physical pain, a threat to our survival?
As this blogger suggests, it may be in the most serious disability-related situations when it is most imperative to laugh. Because if we don’t laugh, we’ll cry instead. And through laughter we can find hope.
Further, the humor that disabled people share with one another is borne out of our shared experiences. It arose out of segregation and is often a backlash against a world that tends to exclude us even today. Knowing I have a community who will laugh with me when I face discrimination gives me the confidence to keep trying.