What's next, inhalers named wheezy?
October 19, 2005 4:48 AM   Subscribe

Come on, the inventors of The Spazz had to realize they weren't choosing the best name for a wheelchair. And such thoughtful marketing: "Have you been dreaming of that unique custom wheelchair that would not cost you an arm and a leg?" [more inside]
posted by allen.spaulding (37 comments total)
At first I understood why people are pissed. Then I found this site from the BBC. What the hell is going on in England?
posted by allen.spaulding at 4:49 AM on October 19, 2005

The UK isn't so PC and 'up it's arse' as some places.
posted by Frasermoo at 4:54 AM on October 19, 2005

sorry, that should be 'some people in the UK'
posted by Frasermoo at 4:57 AM on October 19, 2005

That BBC site deserves its own post. I liked it, BTW.
posted by teleskiving at 5:00 AM on October 19, 2005

Hmm, I don't think this is an issue of political correctness (whether anything ever was is another story) but instead what might be called disability chic. It would seem that there exists a movement that embraces the term spazz and "cripple cocktails."
posted by allen.spaulding at 5:06 AM on October 19, 2005

And I quote:

"At last a design that unifies the chair and body! The X-treme is designed with this concept in mind. In any sport, especially tennis, you want your chair to be as responsive as possible. The X-treme will enhance your every move."

Do people actually play tennis in wheel chairs?
posted by jaded at 5:21 AM on October 19, 2005

Do people actually play tennis in wheel chairs?

posted by lazy-ville at 5:26 AM on October 19, 2005

I really fail to see anything wrong with a group of people embracing their hardship (whatever it may be) and using a bit of humor, frankness and candor to deal with it.

I for one, would imagine that the name "Spazz" for that wheelchair is completely and 100% intentional. I mean, look at the thing - it's loud, it's hip, it's the "extreme" of wheelchairs. It's marketed to a younger demographic that most likely has no problem at all with its name.

I think that's just something of a disconnect between young people with disabilities/illnesses/etc. and the older set. Take sites like Planet Cancer - some people might find the bleak humor of such sites offensive, but then they're not really the target market, are they? The site has helped a great many young people with cancer find each other and come to grips with their situation.

What's so different about mobility related disabilities, and why are people with them not allowed to cope the same way?
posted by kaseijin at 5:27 AM on October 19, 2005

Genuinely not worth it, congratulations
posted by NinjaPirate at 5:30 AM on October 19, 2005

@kaseijin - interesting site; shame you b0rked the address :-)

*calls for a moderator*
posted by Chunder at 5:32 AM on October 19, 2005

Chunder - D'oh! Ah, well. It's early here, what can I say? :)
posted by kaseijin at 5:36 AM on October 19, 2005

Do people actually play tennis in wheel chairs?

I've seen people play Rugby League in wheelchairs.
posted by vbfg at 5:43 AM on October 19, 2005

Wheelchair tennis is generally the same as normal tennis with the exception of two bounces allowed - the second can be out of bounds. The chair is considered to be part of the person and there are miscellaneous caveats for "one push during a serve" and "one buttock on the chair", et al. It is even played by quadripelegics!

I rather enjoyed the other models, although I'd have to add some barbed wire and flat black primer to do it Mad Max-style.
posted by kcm at 6:10 AM on October 19, 2005

Wheelchair Rugby (or Murderball as it was originally known) is insane. I've seen a few games going on at my local sports centre and it seems to consist of ramming other people's wheelchairs as hard as possible and then tipping them onto the floor. There's a ball in there somewhere, but it doesn't seem to be very important.
posted by bap98189 at 6:10 AM on October 19, 2005

Is this really that different from, for example, Kayne West using the term nigger? Groups of people seem happy to reclaim names that were (and often still are) seen as wrong, bad or abusive.

Nigger is not listed in the MeFi spell checker!
posted by DrDoberman at 6:12 AM on October 19, 2005

The thought of rugby terrifies me, and the idea that people could be further armed with rolling chairs of death amplifies that fear a thousandfold.
posted by Swandive at 6:29 AM on October 19, 2005

Mod note: fixed kaseijin's link
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 6:35 AM on October 19, 2005

I think it's fantastic. The marketing is great. I think it's actually very good for people to have this sort of imagery as opposed to the geriatrics that are the typical models. It's great to have someone present the need for a chair as something other than the end of your life (and sex life seems to play a particular part in their marketing too).
posted by Pollomacho at 6:40 AM on October 19, 2005

*Sits back to enjoy some Cripple Cocktails.
posted by caddis at 6:43 AM on October 19, 2005

My local gay bar's name involves the word "queer" in some manner! THAT WAS OUR WORD! HOW DARE THEY??
posted by Pretty_Generic at 6:47 AM on October 19, 2005

MurderBall the movie. (vaguely related)
posted by blue_beetle at 6:47 AM on October 19, 2005

They have two other models with similar kinds of names the Boing! and my favorite, the sporting Tremor. There is a huge outspoken disabled community [activists and non-] who find the idea of medicalizing things like basic mobility devices such as wheelchairs a continuing part of the problem of getting equal treatment and necessary accomodation.

Thisisbroken.com recently had a post claiming that a disabled parking space next to a hiking trail was "broken" because OF COURSE people who need this sort of accomodation can't/don't/shouldn't hike. The comments are fascinating in what they reveal about people's perceptions and lack of understanding about people with disabilities.

And the reclaim-the-name thing is pretty common in that community as well, check the titles of the blogs on this site's blogroll for example.
posted by jessamyn at 6:50 AM on October 19, 2005

Disability chic? Hope this doesn't catch on with the kids...

"Double amputee? That's so five minutes ago. Last night I paralyzed myself from the neck down by dropping my TV set on my head. Now I've got a rad wheelchair and I eat from a tube. How awesome is that?"
posted by fungible at 6:51 AM on October 19, 2005

Plenty of people out there became wheelchair users after a motorcycle accident - and the people who once were doing god-knows-what on their motorcycle probably want to do god-knows-what in their wheelchair too. This marketing makes perfect sense.
posted by selfmedicating at 7:30 AM on October 19, 2005

So I think a lot of people are rubbing up against what I consider to be the fundamental ambiguity here. There are issues of reclamation and celebration here as kaseijin and jessamyn pointed out. Yet something's amiss. All activism on this issue I had seen up until now had been celebrating ability, not disability. That's the whole point of person-first terminology. Suddenly, I see that same desire to challenge cultural understanding of people with the disabilites turned on its head. Cripple cocktails? Spazz wheelchairs? What's going on here? Why are the people who have been celebrating their abilities suddenly embracing the opposite? Perhaps this is a true sign of ability, we're so strong that we can use the language that has kept us down. But who speaks for people with disabilities, the BBC? I'm conflicted.
posted by allen.spaulding at 7:58 AM on October 19, 2005

er, that shold be "understanding of people with disabilities"
posted by allen.spaulding at 7:59 AM on October 19, 2005

Plenty of people out there became wheelchair users after a motorcycle accident - and the people who once were doing god-knows-what on their motorcycle probably want to do god-knows-what in their wheelchair too.

What's that supposed to mean? Blaming the victims, are we?
posted by scratch at 8:00 AM on October 19, 2005

I work with people with disabilities, and yes among themselves, especially the younger set, there is great irreverence. (Crip, is a very common term). See, The Ragged Edge magazine.
It is exactly like people who are black referring to one another as nigger, or many other examples of intergroup pseudo- derogatory slang. The real problems come when such terminology is used by members outside that group, because 1) there is inherent uncertainly as to the motives for using those terms (even if they are supposedly benign), and 2) Those outside the group are felt not to have _earned_ the right to use such terms.

There is often, as there should be, discussions on MiFi about race/gender/gay rights. Disability rights tends to be lower profile here, but it is a pretty active community in general
posted by edgeways at 8:01 AM on October 19, 2005

What's that supposed to mean? Blaming the victims, are we?

Not at all, and I hope I didn't come off that way. My point is that if you lose the use of your legs or whatever in an accident, your personality doesn't change. The people who were tough, physically active, etc prior to the accident are the same people afterwards. Ages back I worked at a company that made software for kids with disabilities, and, going to trade shows, I noticed a contingent of people who fit this mold - rough tough guys with all kinds of obscene bumper stickers on their wheelchairs. They rocked. Why not market to them? Why not market to teenagers who think the Spazz brand name is funny? I think it's cool.
posted by selfmedicating at 8:18 AM on October 19, 2005

edgeways, I understand that line of thinking, but there is a point that is being lost here. I tend to be uncertain about what you call "intergroup pseudo- derogatory slang," finding that it is often damaging when used by members of the group as well as those outside. I think in the case of people with disabilities it's quite obvious.

For those who acquired their disabilities after birth, they need to learn to come to terms with a new set of abilities and to find strength and self-worth therein. It must be difficult to be told they should be proud to be a crip when in fact they're learning to be proud of their abilities.
posted by allen.spaulding at 8:47 AM on October 19, 2005

I'm with DrDoberman and P_G here. Words are neutral; intention is eveything. If you nurture your antagonist's language you disarm him. I'm far more upset by the way freedom is being bashed around.

From OUCH--Cockney rhyming slang for the disabled:
Diet Pepsi = epilepsy.
Benny and the Jets = Tourettes.

I'm sending this to my niece, who was thrown from her horse and is just learning to walk again. She requested "get off your ass"-type signs instead of "get well" cards.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 9:35 AM on October 19, 2005

"Welcome to Planet Cancer, a community of young adults with cancer. We're glad you're here. (Well, not really. But you know what we mean.) "

That's great!
posted by brundlefly at 10:35 AM on October 19, 2005

It must be difficult to be told they should be proud to be a crip when in fact they're learning to be proud of their abilities.

I'm a crip. And the point is that it is respectable to be a crip. Using these words is a tongue in cheeck way of the community making fun of the non-disabled public's attitudes about us. Yes, we are proud of our abilities, but we are proud to be crips, too. It is not something that we try to hide or ignore. It is a value added aspect of who we are that makes us more resourceful, more able to manage inconveniences, etc. You can't separate being proud of your abilities from being a crip. It all encompasses who you are. Coming from a history where people wanted to hide us away, talking in these terms is like saying, "you can't hide us, no matter how spastic, or buggered up we are. No matter how uncomfortable we make you feel, We're here."

Kind of like, we're queer/we're here.

I'm trying to find a link, but can't...but you all would have loved the Permobil Colours wheelchair ads of a few years ago. They all had scantily clad disabled folks in bed together.
posted by Bueller at 12:06 PM on October 19, 2005 [2 favorites]

Am I the only one who noticed the model on the first link is wearing "wet look" vinyl and a collar?
posted by etoile at 1:26 PM on October 19, 2005

Some previous discussion here.
posted by dg at 9:03 PM on October 19, 2005

So, the disabled call themselves crips, how long before people with leukemia call themselves bloods?
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 10:36 PM on October 19, 2005

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