Disability, Human Resources, Inclusion, and a Greek Table or Two

Disability, the noun is agentive, connoting a set of facts. The “D” word is never still on the page or slow in the air. One may speak a word like philosophy or zoo with certainty, and yet, ipse dixit, the “D” word differs from these examples as it is a neologism. Moreover, unlike philosophy or the zoo, the “D” word came into existence without spiritual provenance or natural science which means it has fewer possible attributional meanings, less of depth psychology about it. Disability always, from the beginning, meant one couldn’t work. It’s the written or spoken dingus of capitalist suspicion. Disability rights activists must always prove they have value. In a real sense, dis-activists must be philosophically inclined, as must all who care about human rights.

We’re writing and speaking always for our lives. Accordingly I don’t like the word inclusion. The very word suggests one can come in—suggests architecture—come in “here”—be in the room. Few who toss the word around know it comes from the Latin for “shut in” and it originally meant to be confined. It’s a terrible word and represents little of advantage. And yes, “inclusion” has no agency since it’s a tight little word like “track”  or “evaluate”—it’s not a warm word at all. One supposes words have provenance still. You can look them up. I neither believe I’m disabled, nor am I included. I’m certainly never nourished by either word.

Now if you’re a human resources representative or a college administrator you’ll think me daft (without knowing the ableism inherent in the term) as I cling (desperately) to the notion that how we talk about ourselves matters, not merely as a dynamic of respect or correctness but in terms of imagination. Human Resources is a repulsive term. It suggests looting. “We drained that resource alright, and heh heh, nowadays, you can just force the employee out afterwards, when he’s flat as a stingray—and we don’t even have to give him a pocket watch!”

How about “Human Stewardship” or “Advantage?” Nah. Just kidding. After all, as the “D” word tells us, value is ambiguous and conditional.

Which brings me back to “inclusion” which is always conditional. One prefers a word like guarantee—a hyphenated word that means participant, welcomed, maybe even ingrained. I’d rather be fully a part of a table than be a crumb on it’s surface.

Ahem. E.M. Forster (who should have known better) wrote: “The main facts in human life are five: birth, food, sleep, love and death.”

Forster forgot tables. The poor sleep at tables. If they’re lucky they eat at tables, give birth on tables, even die on them among the forks.

The Disabled. Tabled. Never at the right one. The culture table. Heavy. Of massive wood.

If they’re lucky the table fits wheelchairs; provides ample space beneath for guide dogs; there’s a place for your assistant or interpreter.

Mostly never the right one. Infelicitous. Crabbed. In Human Resources Land (a terrible board game) the table is a diminished fact. The profit motive is more important than the table. One writes: “And yet sometimes it is all I can do to stand or sit before a table. Merely arriving almost kills me.”

The table—the first reasonable accommodation. We had to get the food higher than the snouts of dogs. We had to coin the word “sit” both for the dogs and ourselves.

**

A deaf man sits at a table. Beside him is his interpreter. Opposite: two job interviewers.

Job interviewer #1: “If we hire you, what accommodations will you need?”

Deaf man: “It depends on the job you offer me.”

Job interviewer #2: “We’ll get back to you.”

This is the table as portcullis. The table turned on its side.

**

The table I always wanted: a place for the antithetical meal—no dominant cuisine.

Disability is a tableaux, a tabula, a treatment of tables, since the “D” word undermines the furnishings. Here is my Platonic table: shifty but of original form which is to say protean. The gods are always changing shapes.

**

After every meal the Greeks slid their tables under their beds.