The brilliant and wonderfully grumpy Sam at gimpled has an insightful complaint against the “just say hi” campaign. If you haven’t seen it, it’s a video doing the rounds of social media that features a bunch of celebrities and a few token people with disabilities responding to the (ridiculous) question, “what do I say to a person with a disability?” As Homer Simpson would say, Doh!
I guess the ad is an attempt to normalise disability, but it has the opposite effect. Prior to having a disability, I could traverse the world invisibly. I could, for example, read on a train with very little fear of interruption. When I first got into a wheelchair I felt terribly self-conscious, as though everyone was staring at me. Before too long, though, I got over myself, only to discover that a lot of people must actually be staring at me. At least that’s what their friendly greetings seemed to indicate.
Sam hates strangers who “just say hi” to her. Check out her reason (here).
I’m not sure, though, whether I completely agree with her. Whether I like it or not, there is a good chance strangers are going to speak to me on a train and elsewhere. If I have my head in a really good book, it can be annoying. But often, I’m just reading the SMH or Facebook (or worse, some boring theologian/philosopher). If I go with the flow and take the opportunity to chat, it can make for a more interesting – and a more human – journey.
I guess the key is to follow the golden rule; do to others as you want them to do to you. The problem with the “just say I” campaign is that it targets disability. Perhaps it might have some relevance if directed more broadly; if it stood as an encouragement for a more friendly world. Then again, my introvert friends might want to punch me in the face for suggesting as much.