Crip Time

Crip time emerges here as a wry reference to the disability-related events that always seem to start late or to the disabled people who never seem to arrive anywhere on time. As one slang dictionary puts it, “crip time” means both “a flexible standard for punctuality” and “the extra time needed to arrive or accomplish something.” This need for “extra” time might result from a slower gait, a dependency on attendants (who might themselves be running late), malfunctioning equipment (from wheelchairs to hearing aids), a bus driver who refuses to stop for a disabled passenger, or an ableist encounter with a stranger that throws one off schedule. Operating on crip time, then, might be not only about a slower speed of movement but also about ableist barriers over which one has little to no control; in either case, crip time involves an awareness that disabled people might need more time to accomplish something or to arrive somewhere.

Feminist, Queer, Crip
  1. A flexible standard for punctuality, as an accomodation for a person with a disability.
  2. The extra time needed to arrive or accomplish something, needed to maneuver your wheelchair, empty your leg-bag, etc.
crip time – meaning and definition. What is crip time

Exploring disability in time also includes speculation on temporalities of disability: how might disability affect one’s orientation to time? Irv Zola and Carol Gill were perhaps the first disability studies scholars to mention the temporal orientation of “crip time,” describing it as an essential component of disability culture and community. Tellingly, neither one of them defined the term but rather focused on its frequent appearance in disability communities; they wrote as if the concept would be already familiar to their readers. For Zola, discussing “the intricacies of crip time” was an important act of political reclamation for disabled people; Gill reports feeling pleasure and surprise at discovering “the common usage and understanding” of crip time among the diverse groups of disabled people she encountered. By locating crip time in disabled people’s in-group conversations, Gill and Zola center community-based temporalities, ones which they equate with disability culture and resistance.

Feminist, Queer, Crip

Recognizing some people’s need for “more” time is probably the manifestation of crip time most familiar to those of us in the academy. Disabled students (or at least those with approved paperwork) are permitted more time on exams, for example, or granted extended reading periods. But “crip time” means more than this kind of blanket extension; it is, rather, a reorientation to time. As Margaret Price explains, “[A]dhering to crip time…might mean recognizing that people will arrive at various intervals, and designing [events] accordingly; and it might also mean recognizing that [people] are processing language at various rates and adjusting the pace of a conversation. It is this notion of flexibility (not just ‘extra’ time)” that matters.9 Crip time is flex time not just expanded but exploded; it requires reimagining our notions of what can and should happen in time, or recognizing how expectations of “how long things take” are based on very particular minds and bodies. We can then understand the flexibility of crip time as being not only an accommodation to those who need “more” time but also, and perhaps especially, a challenge to normative and normalizing expectations of pace and scheduling. Rather than bend disabled bodies and minds to meet the clock, crip time bends the clock to meet disabled bodies and minds.

Feminist, Queer, Crip

Ellen Samuels explores this possibility of crip time as resistant orientation: “Crip time refuses to define itself in terms of either the ideal or the average: Schedules for work, parenting, and the social are thus shaped by individual needs, desires, and abilities, rather than by regimented economic and cultural imperatives.”

Feminist, Queer, Crip

Further reading,