What is Crip Time?

Published November 30, 2021

The term crip time is used by some disability theorists and advocates to describe disabled individuals’ unique relationship to time. Crip time indicates the complexity of disabled experience in a world with many barriers to accessibility. In this sense, the term denotes the extra time—and need for time accommodations—a person might need to perform any variety of tasks. Crip time also notifies a conflict with normative time, the seemingly normal apportioning or segmenting of time in daily life.

What crip time says about accessibility

Also addressed through the concept of crip time are many barriers to access that might be invisible or overlooked when discussing accommodation. This could include anything from the extra time it takes to move through spaces in a wheelchair (and thus the extra time it takes to arrive somewhere in an expected timeframe) to the way chronic illness and fatigue ‘eats up’ a person’s time. In both scenarios, the apportioning of the day into segments that are assumed to be normal and natural—set hours for work, rest and recreation, chores, errands, socializing, family time, and sleep—is disrupted and shown to be inadequate. Needing extra time and recovery time to perform tasks, often necessary ones, means that other portions of the day will be sacrificed, something that is often not factored into how disability accessibility is understood. Crip time provides a framework to look at how different relationships to time need more inclusive acknowledgment and accommodation.

Crip time and liberation

Crip time can also have connotations of liberation: in this way, the user of the term reclaims the experience of time as their own and celebrates that time is not uniform but varied between individuals and shaped by unique physical and cognitive factors. Crip time in both senses—of liberation and orientation toward accessibility—are connected. Both emphasize that normative time is artificial and can be changed. As disability theorist Alison Kafer describes it:

rather than bend disabled bodies and minds to meet the clock, crip time bends the clock to meet disabled bodies and minds.

Crip time vs. Normative time

Normative time can be defined as the broadly socially accepted way that time in everyday life is divided. This includes any experiences where time is placed into segments or portions. Familiar examples would be the 9-5 workday, the time limit on a test, and how long it takes to reach an Uber ride before receiving an additional charge. Under the umbrella of normative time also falls culturally determined divisions of time into larger chunks and milestones, such as when certain life-stages should occur and for what duration (when a child should learn how to read or ride a bicycle; when an adult should get their first job after high school or college; when someone should marry, and so on). All of these allotments of time are seemingly normal but the concept of crip time shows that they are often exclusionary and restrictive, even arbitrary.

What this means for everyone

Crip time provides a framework for looking at the general inaccessibility of daily life for many people. The factors that fall under crip time can potentially affect anyone, from the person whose sense of time and the future has changed after being diagnosed with a major illness to the experience of pandemic quarantine now familiar to many of us. With March 2020, previously set plans evaporated; this radically changed sense of time was closely connected to the new ways we had to relate to physical spaces, daily tasks, future prospects, and even our own bodies. Crip time provides a framework to look at these issues with more sensitivity and clarity.

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