I had an interesting conversation with my aunt the other day. She noticed how many people with disabilities often make jokes about their disabilities to themselves or their friends. She didn’t understand why they would do that, since she interpreted them as being mean to themselves, and asked if that was something that I did often in regards to my blindness. I kind of laughed a little because I would say that 80% of my humour is me making blind jokes around almost everyone I know.
That conversation made me reflect on how I use humour to educate and make people comfortable around me and my disability. As I explained to my aunt, many people that I meet for the first time don’t really know how to talk to me, as they don’t have much experience speaking with a person with a disability. I’ve had experiences range from people being very curious and asking me directly about my disability, to people completely ignoring it and not wanting to talk about it at all since it makes them quite uncomfortable.
When I sense that people are a bit hesitant or uncomfortable around me due to my blindness, I sometimes crack a blindness related joke to ease up the slightly tense atmosphere. I usually find that this allows some space in the conversation for people to understand that it’s okay to not make my disability a taboo subject and be open to talk to me if they have any questions.
I have had so many wonderful conversations following some jokes that I make since people understand that I have a sense of humour and won’t be offended if they want to talk about my blindness. Sometimes it leads to people feeling comfortable enough to make their own blind jokes when I am around, which I personally love to see, because I understand that they are fully comfortable around me and my disability, and that they view me as a friend that they can joke around with.
I think humour in general is a powerful tool that allows people to connect with one another. When I personally make jokes about my disability at my own expense, there are a number of purposes. It makes me laugh and not take myself too seriously, it normalizes my disability to others around me, and it can break the ice in an unconventional way and allow people to feel more comfortable around me and my disability.