Crip Time


I live by a different time to you.
I do not refer to the usual differences in the way we all experience time. We all know that time speeds by when you have nothing to do; time hangs heavy when you think you could have something to do if people re-ordered their timetables. So tempting is the long sleep in, so wearing the long afternoon left unattended. The time my caregivers spend loitering is negligible, the time I spend waiting is interminable. One’s perception of time is dependant on one’s dependency.
But my time is different from yours in a more important way. Imagine a world twenty times slower than this — a world where cars travelled at three miles an hour, lifesavers took an hour to chew, a glass of water half an hour to drink. Pissing would take quarter of an hour, lovemaking longer than it does now (which might be a good thing). A sitcom like Rosanne would run for ten hours, longer than Hamlet and Lear combined.
I live life in  slow motion. The world I live in is one where my thoughts are as quick as anyone’s, my movements are weak and erratic, and my talk is slower than a snail in quicksand. I have cerebral palsy, I can’t walk or talk, I use an alphabet board, and I communicate at the rate of 450 words an hour compared to your 150 words in a minute - twenty times as slow. A slow world would be my heaven. I am forced to live in your world, a fast hard one. If slow rays flew from me I would be able to live in this world. I need to speed up, or you need to slow down.
For food, too, my time is slower than yours. I take an hour to eat lunch - not an hour to go to the restaurant, order, consume my meal, and chat, but an hour just to eat. I used to live in an institution,where I didn’t have an hour. Meals for us were done in your time, or evenfaster, six minutes per child. If you choked on a mouthful, they stopped your meal and moved on to the next child. Long lunches are now my frequent pleasure; they show me I am free.
Long speeches are another matter. They show me I am only in a larger prison.  People will not enter my time to talk to me. Slow the conversation down to my speed, and everybody else wanders away; carry on talking while I finish my sentence, and the conversation has moved on. Too long sentences twenty times slowed try the patience and require better memories than my listeners posess. 
Technology has not helped me greatly. I have owned a Canon Communicator, a mini-typewriter which I used with a headpointer and which printed my message on a long, thin strip of paper. I have owned a speech synthesizer which strung together the phonemes I selected with my headpointer to make words and sentences. I have owned a computer which was adapted so I could use it as a word processor by pressing 9 buttons instead of the keyboard, and it was the slowest to use of all my high-tech communication equipment, all of which was even slower than using my alphabet board. I could type at ten words an hour, provided someone else set up the computer (I can't put a disk in the slot, let alone load a printer).
These gadgets enable me to do things I can't do without them, but they don't let me do them fast enough to make it worthwhile. If technology made me normal, it would be great; as it is it makes me slower and less efficient and reduces the time I would otherwise spend with non-disabled people.
I am not a fan of high technology.   Laziness afflicts people with disabilities as much as people without. The more severely disabled one is, the greater the effort involved in learning to use technology and the smaller the gains. I'm reluctant to make the effort until I'm certain the results will make the effort worthwhile. If using the computer means I write less and have less personal contact then it's not worthwhile. I don't like using a machine if there's a person available to help me. I can live a good life without any technology other than an alphabet board.
Yes, I want to be able to type independently, but if I can't get up to 400 words per hour it's not worthwhile setting up the technology. I have so little output for my efforts at the best of times that the thought of diminishing it further simply in order to be independent has no attractions for me.
The most useful tool I have used is the Macaw, a talking machine that records somebody speaking phrases I have previously spelled out on an alphabet board. It can’t inquire in advance what people are going to talk about, though, and I have to guess what will be witty in a conversation that will not take place till the following day. I have regular jokes about politicians, more to show willing than to make people laugh. Only greetings like How are you? and What have you been doing? help bridge the disparities between crip time and mean time.
Crip time is pre-programmed, thought running ahead of communication; pre-programmed like crip lives, programmed with activities we did not choose, overwriting our own lives with other people’s voices.


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Anne McDonald Centre. 538 Dandenong Road, Caulfield 3162 Victoria, Australia Ph: 03 9509 6324, Fax: 03 9509 6321
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