Monday, May 02, 2011

The friendly ramp


Today is election day in Canada and I find myself in the throes of despair. The party I voted for will not win the election, but that isn't the cause of my upset. I voted so I get to complain about the party that does win ... and that's OK with me. What's bothering me, really, really bothering me, is that over the course of the election I began to think, maybe even fantasize about the growing strength of the 'disability vote' over the next several years. As boomers age, well, ageing will do what aging does. Even over the last three years I've noticed an increase in walkers, canes, scooters and wheelchairs. I pictured, with a somewhat evil smile, politicians waking up to the realization that those age spotted hands which grip wheels, which hold on to walkers, which steer scooters also are very likely to use a pen to mark an X on a ballot.

'Ah,' thought I, in the way that I think when I write about how I think, 'the politicians and political parties are going to come a-courting.'

However, it seems that there is a fly in the ointment. Turns out that masses of boomers are simply never going to be disabled. Even when they sit their ass in a wheelchair, or rest their buttocks on a walkers seat, they don't need accessibility as disabled citizens - NO - heaven forfend! They need age friendly environments. They have no intention of addressing issues from a DISABILITY perspective. God, no, they don't have a disability or need of accessibility. They are seniors who need age friendly environments. Great.

Here these old gaffers and gaffettes are going to be getting by using curb cuts that DISABILITY ACTIVISTS got for them; ramps that DISABILITY ACTIVISTS fought for; transportation that DISABILITY ACTIVISTS continue to fight for. And these things now are about being 'age-friendly'. I guess these folks expect friendliness because they are valued seniors not scum sucking, benefit slurping, disabled people. So there goes any hope of a disability voting block.

Somehow I felt so insulted at the need to change language simply so people who are disabled and have disabilities don't have to acknowledge that we share membership in the same club. What is so freaking wrong about having a disability? Why is that identity so very difficult for people to swallow? This is MY identity. This is MY community. I am proud of what my community has done and what my community continues to stand, er, sit for.

You know what, I'm tired just from writing this. I'm going to make my day 'age friendly' and take a nap.

Gott helfen Lars.

(and if you recognize that quote you probably need to live in an age friendly environment)


Anonymous said...

Gott helfen Lars?

It either should be "Gott möge Lars helfen" oder "Gott hilft Lars" ???

"May god help Lars" oder "God is helping Lars".

What do you want to say with this quote?

Where does this qoute stem from?

Maybe I am not old enough...

Julia from Germany

Dave Hingsburger said...

Julia, I'm just heading out for a very long trip. I think I'll wait to see if anyone else knows the quote. The quote isn't German by the by. I'll give a hint, it was from an American television show and the line, I think, was supposed to be either Norwegian or Swedish - however, it's neither. It was simply supposed to 'sound' that way to an American ear, I think. Anyways, does anyone else remember? Gotta run.

Andrea S. said...

I, too, am saddened/frustrated by the way that older people so often want to distinguish themselves from people like me just because their impairments--often similar to mine--are age related and mine are not. How can we create solidarity and rally ourselves politically for what are clearly common goals (accessibility) when the identities are so disparate?

I think some of the problem may be that many older people grew up in a time when younger (and also older) disabled people were in various ways shut away from the rest of society ... when people with disabilities were viewed as people who were helpless, dependent, passive objects of charity instead of human beings with their own agency and possessing a wide range of abilities--even while lacking a few particular skills that most people take for granted. People reaching old age now don't want to think of themselves as being one of "those" helpless, pitiful charity cases and would rather distinguish themselves into a different category rather than challenge their own preconceived notions about what it actually means to be a person with disabilities--no matter how old you are, or whether your disabilities are "age related" or not.

How do we bridge that gap? I guess one part of the answer is to keep educating, educating, educating. Both older people who are now starting to wrestle with the new idea that their particular rnage capabilities are not the same now as they were when they were younger and also younger people so that, if/when they acquire new impairments later in life, they will not be quite so quick to take offense at the idea that they are now joining our company.

Don't recognize the quote at all. Even if I were old enough (and perhaps I'm not), if it was on television before the 1980s then I can basically guarantee it did not have captions and so would not have been accessible to me in any case, at least not at the time it was first aired.

sashasmithy said...

Stuff like this is also what makes people believe that us youngins (I'm 22) not be believed that we're *really* disabled, we can't be because we're not old enough. I find it interesting that the word "friendly" is used, as if you should give "age-friendly" accessibility out of the goodness of your heart not because it's the *right* thing to do, as if accessibility should be a charitable act.

In my area, all the "age-friendly" environments are the most accessible. For an instance there are two apartment complexes. I'm searching for an accessible apartment and it's hard to find something either on a first floor or with an elevator. But the "age-friendly" apartments have wheelchair access and elevators and ramps and everything that I need. But I can't use them because I'm not over 55. I'd get carted off the premises if I tried!

Ellen said...

Sorry to be shallow, but no comment on your great post except ... The Mary Tyler Moore Show!!!!! When Phyllis Lindstrom's Swedish(?) mother-in-law visited, that's what she had to say about Phyllis.


BubbleGirl said...

I've given more than a fleeting thought to moving into a senior's home. I'm 23. They have qualified nurses (hopefully), easy access to everything, someone to do the cooking and cleaning, many similarly-abled people there, a nice sense of community. Only problems are the price tag, and the fact that I'm the age of these people's grandchildren or great-grandchildren.

If only my birth certificate showed that my 23 year old body is as aged on the inside as a 90 year old who'd spent their life doing hard labour.

Colleen said...

Dear Dave:

So I have a really nasty cold today and my brain is working differently than usual. I am wondering what happens to people with disabilities as they age - instead of being entitled to accommodation - do they become included in the "age friendly" stuff. It seems to me that age friendly sounds kind of soft and "us" being nice to "them". Whereas the rights and entitlements won by disability activists are enshrined in law and the Charter. That's my take on it - society still trying to be the beneficent and placing people with disaiblities into the role of burden of charity. They just would never get away with that with DISABILITY ACTIVISTS!


Noisyworld said...

Interesting, over here I don't think it's really classed as age-friendly it's accessability just without the disabled tag.
This allows the old people with no idea that young people can be disabled fight for the same things as disabled people; if only they'd realise it's about disability access we could all fight together the world would be a better place :)
*Noisy drifts off into dream world ;)

Ettina said...

"it's accessability just without the disabled tag."

Neat idea. After all, there are some groups who need similar accomodations for things that by no stretch of the term would be called disabilities - such as pregnant women, or people who speak the dominant language as a second language.

Kind of like how educators use 'special needs' - it's not a synonym for disabled, because it also includes gifted kids, immigrants and 'at risk' kids ('at risk' is code for 'poor and oppressed').

M said...

It's from the Mary Tyler Moore show. Phyllis is talking about what her in-laws say about her.

...I'm 26 years old. I had a weird childhood.