The topic of this week’s Crip Camp was apologizing. Once again I will begin by stating the soon worn out “this is not an easy topic”. To be discriminated, oppressed, and ignored on a societal level is – if anything – reason enough for a much earned apology, but the question is what kind of apology is actually enough?
Bianca Laureano – one of the guest speakers on Crip Camp: The Virtual Experience – spoke of different types of apologies:
- Empty apologies – apologies which do not mean anything and are mostly forced or takes place offhandedly.
- Gaslighting – by arguing that you, in making an apology, instead are manipulating the recipient so the guilt ends up on them.
- Excessive apologies – a taught behavior of apologizing, something which may both be a sign of oppression (for example to always carry the role of the guilty one), but can also be closely related to an empty apology.
- Incomplete apologies.
- And, last but not least, intentional apologies.
The last kind is, according to Laureano, made up by three layers: to acknowledge specific actions, acknowledge impact, and be clear what you will do to change your behavior. To receive an apology for the lack of accessibility and inclusion would in other words be equal to an acknowledgement of this being something wrong; to acknowledge the impact of discrimination and oppression which is a consequence of the inaccessibility; clearly show that this will not be repeated. But can you trust words? That is: when is an apology ever enough?
“Sorry Emma, there’s no ramp to the stage.”, “I’m sorry, but the lecture was booked for this room specifically with a single access from stairs.”, “Ah excuse me! The elevator’s not working, you’ll have to go to the next station!”. The usual day for any wheelchair user. (Okay, maybe not the first example, but this is a potential topic for yet another post on representation – something I by the way want a universal apology for!) I could get all these apologies with the additional information on how the ramp will be built, all future lectures will be rebooked, and how in the future there will be 24/7 service for all elevators. As if this would lessen the event of discrimination. Let us make one more example. “Sorry Beatrice, you were sterilized against your will, here are some economic compensation.”