On the outside, Abigail looks normal. Long, brown hair that is always pulled back and bangs. Brown eyes. White skin. Not extremely super-model thin but not fat either. Built rather averagely actually. To anyone, she looks perfectly normal.
But, she’s not. See, although she looks normal and acts normal, she has one slightly problem. The whole world is smaller for her than for you.
Take, for instance, snow. Snow is beautiful, white falling flakes that you can sit on our couch and watch as it falls outside. For her, the snow must either be very large flakes or she must focus on a dark background right against the window to see them coming. Details in prints, like the back of a tiny-striped couch or a skirt, more blend together so the predominate color is visible.
Forget about trying to see eyes. Emotions in eyes are a foreign concept to her. Then, also, when people are looking at her, she can’t be sure, because she can’t see what way people are looking. Finger pointing in a class doesn’t help too much because although they might be pointing at her, they also might be pointing at any person around her. She can’t tell.
What about people in general though? True, at a table she can see expressions and eyes and mouths and quite a lot. But anything further than five feet is difficult. People are recognized by body shape and now they walk. Voices also help, but if she doesn’t know them very well, than she will not see anyone farther than five feet. And if someone is waving at her from quite a distance, she probably won’t even know about it.
About reading, it is possible, but she reads closer than most people do and is often told by people that she really should look at getting glasses. About six inches is the max distance she can read normal font. Street signs are impossible, although store signs across the street can be read usually.
So why does this matter? Because we always read about the poor cripple who goes on the quest or the blind or deaf person. What we never consider is what if someone viewed the world through a pair of binoculars backwards? This character obviously won’t look different but she still is and, although it is possible to adapt, it is still hard after twenty-one years.
What made me think of something like this? Because this is me. Strangely, I’ve never been tempted to write a story about myself like that. Maybe because I don’t want to glorify it or maybe a big deal out of it. I answer questions if someone asks but no one has really asked. So anyway, this is me and there’s nothing I can do about it. Maybe you can use it in writing, maybe not.
The funny thing is actually that, except for role playing, I’ve only once written a story with someone who is disabled in some way, and that was in 2003. I realized yesterday that everyone I write about is usually very good at what they do. I also realized on the flip side that everyone who is really good at what they do practiced a lot. Shad is a really good pilot but what does the captain say right off? (No. I don’t expect you to know.) He reminds his son that Shad has more hours than anyone he knows in the simulator. Shad also has been working for the last nine years of his life as a pilot. So it makes sense.
But what do you think is better? Do you think that it is more interesting to write a story about someone who is crippled or not? How would making your characters crippled, either from a recent accident or something they’ve been born with, change your story?