Humor and Disabilities

“I’ve used humor as a defense mechanism for as long as I can remember,”  Steve Mertz shared with me.  I met Steve when he presented a program on Search Engine Optimization at the Las Vegas Chapter of the National Speakers Association (NSA).  “Humor is the universal language and it’s impossible to have a pity party and laugh at the same time.”

Steve walks with the use of forearm crutches. He observes that “this makes my upper body mean and lean–kind of like doing bench presses all day!  Because of spinal cord damage it’s necessary for me to use the crutches when walking. I have movement in my legs and love to swim.”

“Humor has been my favorite coping tool over the years. It’s diffused many an awkward situation and made many friends for me.  Combine humor with the ability to generate small talk and you have a powerful combination.”

“I also have found that my intention is to tell people what happened to me, without being dramatic, so they can focus on what I have to say.  Therefore, I tell them the facts and then try to interject humor to disarm them and let them know that I’m OK with my condition. I’m still the same person with the same heart–I just have this inconvenience to deal with!”

Here are a couple of examples of how Steve has used humor in his interactions with people:

  – People will often comment on my good-looking crutches.  They like the color.  If they comment, I may say something like, “It’s important for crippled people to follow fashion as well.”

  – If someone is rude, I might say:  “Don’t worry it’s not contagious.”

“At first, it really pissed me off that people would just stop, stare, point and ask ‘what happened?!’  I soon discovered that being bitter did me absolutely no good and I learned that a smile and some humor would immediately disarm the rudest of people.”

“I’m writing a children’s book to help young people with disabilities. It will be titled:  Our Footprints are Different–But our Hearts are The Same (   One of the suggestions that I make to parents is to have their kids take an Improv class on humor–a little tamer than some of the comedy you see in a nightclub–but along the same lines.  The sooner we can start laughing the quicker the healing starts!”

Steve Mertz is the President, NSA Colorado Chapter, 2008-2009.  He can help you optimize your web site so that people can find you on the search engines.  One of his tag-lines:  “Fall asleep doing a Google search for your website?”  His program for our NSA Chapter was terrific, insightful and practical.  Check out Steve’s web site (