Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Comment on a Comment on a Comment Leading to a Question

Yesterday, again, I was caused to pause and think because of a comment made and a question asked. This time it was 'John R' who left this question:

Question and advice please!

I was at a rock and roll show this past week and was standing in "the pit". It was fairly crowded and lots of people were standing at the stage,belly-up. The stage was at approx four feet high.....In comes a young man, with a high tech power wheelchair, using a respirator and with a ton of adaptive stuff attached. He was with who appeared to be his parents. He was assisted in to the pit and slowly made his way to about 10 feet from the stage. This is a very loud and raucous rock and roll band who was performing and this fellow was obviously, like me, appreciative of loud and rockin' music. Lots of dancing and cheering and moshing (that is like dancing but not)

....several people moved from his way so he had at least a slight view to the stage but a few people were oblivious to his presence, stood in front of him and moved in front of him and occasionally bumped his chair, his adaptive equipment and were just plain rude. A few times I saw his companions move him one way or another, but he continued to stay for the show, watched the racy dancing going on to his left side and seemed to have a good time.

Here is my question, should I have asked the rude and oblivious people in front of him, after I conferred with him, to step aside so he could have a complete view of the stage. At his level and height in the chair, he was blocked. He did not seem to mind but I know if I was in his vantage point for the show I would have been disappointed. Should I have advocated with/for him?? 


On person responded to John and I thought I'd like to hear more ~ what do you all think? What is your criteria for entering in and speaking up? What would you have done in this situation?

I like to think through these situations either in my life or in the experience of others ... it gives me a chance to prepare a bit for next time.

Because there is always a next time.

I want to add a wrinkle to John's question though ... would it make a difference, regarding intervention, if the person intervening was a non-disabled person or a disabled person? I'm curious about that because, occasionally when another disable person has spoken up when I've been taken aback by something - I've received that assistance in a different way than I might if the person assisting was non-disabled. I'm not sure of that ... but I think, for me, it might make a difference.

So, time to have a big ol discussion.

30 comments:

Alison Cummins said...

Ask?

My mother once presented me with a dilemma: she worked at a university with long corridors and heavy doors. Every now and then she would see a disabled person ahead of her struggling with the door and their books and bags. It was clear they would eventually make it through; it was equally clear that it was a struggle. My mother’s question: does she let the person independently manage their own door, or does she break into a sprint so she can grab the door for them? My answer: Ask them. For instance, “If you can hold on just a sec I’ll give you a hand with that door.” If they decline, cool. If they stop fighting with the door, cool. But it’s their choice.

Wouldn’t similar logic apply here?

It partly depends: peers modelling polite behaviour is good and easy (“Yo, let’s get out of this guy’s way”) but in that atmosphere may not get much attention and drunk people might forget very quickly. Simply modelling polite behaviour isn’t an elaborate intervention, isn’t an imposition on the disabled guy, but it’s also unlikely to do much good in that particular situation.

So I guess he’s asking about the next level up — he’s wondering if the guy wants a bodyguard to keep the view of the stage clear for him — which is kind of a big deal, so he should ask first before imposing himself.

Anonymous said...

I think in this situation, where the concert attendee had other advocates, I would not interceed. Had he been alone, I think I would ask him (as Alison pointed out) and then perhaps helped out. I say perhaps because of the atmosphere of the mosh pit. And just maybe that is what the concert goer wanted - having picked a front space.

If there is a "fight" to be treated as others, and a choice has been made to put yourself in a place (concert, parade, whatever) then I would expect to be treated like everyone else - which means in this case I'll be bumped and moved and come home with ringing ears. Me - to chicken to expose myself that way - but then - I'm no mosher!!

Shan said...

I'd agree with anonymous who says that because he had attendants, it would not be for you to intercede.

Plus honestly that's what you get ('you' meaning 'everybody') when you get floor tickets. If you want guaranteed view, you buy seating right behind a section barrier, and even then you probably have to holler at the people in front of you to sit down unless you want to spend all your time standing.

I like what Anonymous said about being treated like everybody else. Short people don't get everyone on the floor to move so they can see!

Mike said...

I cannot see or hear but I turn my head to the universe. My head senses, somehow, a universe of warm light. My head lights with the suns of the human heart. First principles. Do no harm. The light penetrates inside and I curl into a fetal position. I can open my eyes and sense a presence.

Somewhere, deep down where it really counts, Within me there is an invincible summer

Thank you.

Mike said...

Other principles. 'NO the "rules" to BRAKE the "rules."' --Miles two Daves.

Time to begin again. Let's save civilization.

Thanks for letting me crash on the couch until I get my own pad, Dave. The left side of my head is lit up like the universe.

Thank you.

Mike said...

There's more. I know a code called Morse. Don your clothes and step out into the universe. Let's rock this place to the ground. Loft us on the shoulders of genius.

"Mike" said...

Marx, Context over Foundation.

Trust the Irish.

Mary said...

Perhaps we have a different kind of mosh pit here, because the ones I've been in haven't really been environments well-suited to social niceties. You don't go in the mosh pit to have a wonderful uninterrupted view of the band (the view is much better from a bit further away). You go in the mosh pit to be right up against the vibration of the speakers and being bumped into by sweaty strangers who are enjoying it just as much as you are.

I figure the guy had assistants, if he wanted assistance, he could flag them over to advocate for him.

Even if he didn't have anyone with him - you've got to be actually screaming in someone's ear to be heard in a mosh pit. I'm all for polite strangers in civilised situations saying "would you like a hand with that?" or "is there anything you want me to do?", and then I can either say "no thank you, I've got it" or "yes please, could you XYZ?" But this is not a situation where that works...

"Mike" said...

"'A "fuck clause",' Jim said when he was told about it. 'I bet it's a rock and roll first.' Thank you.

Dave, I especially like the "Choose and identity" part. DID you make that up all by yourself or did you have help? I bet DID is did. Can I buy a vowel? There's no "I" in identity, but then there are, at least two. Thank you.

If you need to take a pill, just do it. Victory. It's fine, really. Ask Dave.

Mary said...

As for help from disabled vs non-disabled people... oooh, tricky.

I have had occasions of sagging with relief at not being the only person in a particular fix. And people who experience similar barriers to the ones that I do can often give much more relevant information (eg when the nearest loo is 50m away but the nearest accessible loo is 300m away).

On the other hand, if I need practical physical help, it's probably better coming from someone with more physical capability than me. If I need someone to speak for me because I'm slurring and stumbling over words, it's probably best that it's a person without a speech impediment.

"Mike" said...

Mary, *Point well taken.* Thank you for the love.

"Mike" said...

In my day, which makes me sound like an old geezer like Dave, we said "cool." Now, people are saying, "sick." I know part of this has to do with my age, but "sick" now means "cool" for young people. I think young people are playing Zombie video games because they care about the same things older people do. The young people of the world are not, themselves, sick. It's semantics but it's also common sense, which is a word I used to hate in philosophy. I think I get it. I'm going to stick with "cool" because that's the word I identify with, but I get it when people say, "sick."

"Mike" said...

Of course, I know Dave, so this is humor. I would never, in a million years or for a million dollars, sell him out by insulting his age. Far from it, because I have tremendous respect for the elderly of this country. The "old" and the "young" are all people. Do you have any idea how much wisdom is preserved by my grandmother, in the fabric of her own life? If I were you, I would call out of work, get in your car, and go interview your parents and grandparents, great-grandparents, if you are lucky enough. What they know about preserving food, recycling, the environment, and living together in hard times could, perhaps, save the world. Think about it.

"Mike" said...

OK, Here's the question I have, and then I'll take a seat, because that's how human beings get along together, we take turns. Thanks for the "training wheels." What, in the world, does it take for us to figure these problems out? I read somewhere, I believe, that we could actually solve the problem of poverty. It's no mystery, is it? Anonymity is bullshit.

Anonymous said...

My initial reaction is that this would feel patronising and assuming people are less capable than they are, because could the guy not ask people to get out of the way himself? (although perhaps practicalities like it being really noisy and needing to get closer to be heard might make this more difficult, not sure) But if he had people with him, he could definitely ask them to do it.

Just Heidi said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Just Heidi said...

I would ask the INDIVIDUAL being affected first. I never assume that someone wants my help disabled or otherwise. I work as a front line support worker and on several occassions throughout my day there is an opportunity to jump in and advocate/support someone else... I have seen others push an individual's wheelchair through a doorway because it is 'quicker' for the person behind them NOT because the individual in the wheelchair needed the support. I tend to speak up when I see that happening without the consent of the individual. Afterall- I wouldn't want to be pushed thru a doorway ;) I think we should ALWAYS ask the person first. :)

Now- here in Atlantic Canada we are getting a dumping of snow... Can someone HELP me shovel? Happy First Day of Spring Everyone!! :)

Anonymous said...

Attendants aren't advocates. Attendants are attendants. It's unwise to assume that they are there for any other purpose than making sure the equipment works and an individual gets from place to place. So even if he asked them, it wouldn't always be seen as part of their job to help him speak up. Many direct support staff are way to nervous or to young to have the assertiveness in those situations. So, if you are, ask him and then act based on his wishes.

Anonymous said...

Re, Alison:

Helping someone with a door is kind of a special case. Bear in mind that a person who normally uses crutches, walker, or (possibly) cane is using it in the first place because they may need to lean part of their weight on something while walking. But if you are trying to open a door on your own, you can no longer lean on the assistive device because you need the hand to operate the door! This frequently means that the disabled person (or person with broken leg or whatever their situation is) may have already transferred part of their weight to the door. Thus, grabbing the door out of their hand may topple them to the ground because this takes away their support! It would be the same as if you tried to seize their crutches while they were using them! On the other hand, I know that when I was on crutches for a while (injured foot), I DID appreciate someone holding the door for me ... as long as they were at the door before me, and not trying to seize it out of my hand after I've already trusted some of my weight to it!

This is one reason (of many) why it is so important to ASK before helping. It's always fine to OFFER. The key is to ensure that your ASK comes before the help. And that you politely respect their choice whatever they tell you: they may have a good reason for declining even if you can't see it or understand it. The things we think will "help" may sometimes lead to consequences we cannot foresee because we may not know enough nuances about their situation--even for those of us who know a lot (or think we do) about disability, because each person's situation is unique. The person with disabilities is usually in a better position than outside "observers" to make these kinds of assessments about what really does and doesn't help.

It's never wrong to OFFER. What gets annoying (or, occasionally, even risky/harmful!) is when "help" is forced on the person after they've already politely declined.

wendy said...

I think I'm of the "Mosh pits are not polite places" school of thinking on this one. The person made a choice, presumably, to be on the floor. And, for someone in a wheelchair using medical equipment to breathe, I would say it was a pretty impressive choice. If he wanted a perfectly safe spot with no chance of bumping or blocked view he would have made a different choice. Being bumped into and maybe having a beer spilled on you is really just part of the experience.

I, personally, would move out of his way so he could see better.
Had he been alone and looking concerned/distressed/frustrated I would ask if he needed any help. Otherwise I'd just keep dancing, I think. I would try very hard not to spill my beer on him, though. ;-)

Anonymous said...

Agree, that its one thing to offer help, but another to try to help unasked.
Sometimes you just want to feel normal. Sometimes you are fine without help.

Sharon

Anonymous said...

I've loved reading the responses to this and am interested in more! As the parent of a disabled child I have made the decision to teach my daughter to ask for help when she needs it and politely decline when she doesnt. She's only six but already doesnt appreciate anyone doing anything for her without asking! so my answer would be to ask. If you see someone who you think needs some assistance (disabled or otherwise) I believe there is no harm in asking.

Anonymous said...

As Shan said, short people don't get moved to the front of the pit because they can't see.
I've been in a lot of pits in my day, and I'm not the tallest, but I've also never dared to go in by myself. In that situation there is definitely strength in numbers (and if some of those numbers happen to be tough friends who are protective of you, all the better!).
I guess I have some questions about this particular instance, though:
Did the person in the wheelchair appear to be uncomfortable with the surroundings?
If he was on a respirator, was he able to speak? Could he move his arms to get someone's attention if help was needed?
My concern in asking these questions is that if it was his first time in a mosh pit, he may have become uncomfortable, tried to get out, but couldn't flag down his attendants; it is also possible that he tried to exit by moving the wheelchair and was ignored by fellow moshers, who are so used to jockeying for position that once they plant their feet they don't move unless it is to get closer to the stage. If I noticed him, or anyone else disabled or not, trying to get out of the pit or crowd, and unable to do so, I would try to help. I've done it before with a stranger who was drunk and about to pass out from the combination of alcohol and heat/stuffiness in the packed pit.

Laura said...

I didn't read the comments yet but I will. As a person with a disability I almost always intervene when I se rudeness, I'm not sure if this was rudeness or just cluelessness but I do it in a different way often I wait until the moment presents itself and then I will strike up a rather loud not rude but ment to be heard conversation with the person who has the disability and anyone who might be with them in which I point out what to me is obvious issue (would have been hard to do at a concert) Sometimes that resolves the issue but even when it doesn't the person knows there is someone out there who gets their frustration. One time I worked as a volunteer at a center for independent living was attending an event one of the other consumers a good friend who has a much more involved physical issues then mine was being ignored by his attendent, I watched this going on for some time. He is non verbal and uses a computer and communication board to speak but given that she was ignoring him totally and he was computerless his frustration at being ignored was obvious. I was afraid to speak up about that at t he time because his day might be made worse, so that I reported to the staff and the CIL. Later he told me he was very grateful I did and that lady was no longer asked to be an attendent at events like that.

"Mike" said...

ASK DAVE

Louise said...

I'm now very curious as to what on earth a mosh pit is! And since I don't know, I can't possibly know what the unspoken rules and norms of such a place might be. However, in general .... when I'm with my foster son (who has very little, and very quiet speech) I would intervene every time. This is purely a 'mother tiger' reaction and not very considered. What offends me the most is that when someone mobile stands right in front of someone seated, the someone seated gets a backside right in their face. And in which world is THAT acceptable?! And I do the same when folk standing on buses let their backpacks swing into his face..... I guess I have a fundamental belief that if only people see how offensive their behaviour is they couldn't possibly want to do it.......

Nan said...

Ask for help and or politely decline doesn't quite cut it in the mosh pit. I am of the opinion that mosh pits fall into the "there be dragons here" category. Mosh pits are, well, mosh pits methinks. Been there with my daughter, trying mostly to keep her from being stepped on or squashed (because she is slightly short, altho not a wheelchair user). But also, to be honest, about 4 people (all young good looking men), when they saw she had a visible disability, offered to put her on their shoulders so she could see. So. Again, mosh pits have their own etiquette.

Dave Hingsburger said...

Great discussion, for me the key to all of this was when John describing him watching the dancers, loving the music and having a good time. That's why people go to things to have a good time. It seems to me that he was communicating all the way through the event. So if he can say, 'I'm having a good time,' when the music is loud, he could also communicate, 'I'm trying to see and getting frustrated that I can't.' So I don't think anything needs to be done because he didn't ask and it's clear he could have.

Anonymous said...

Rock on. If you have not been in a Mosh Pit, Try it! Watch first and it is no place for people who cannot stand alone (or without friend or friendly Moshers). It is a primal, sweaty, mass of dancing, drunken people. Everyone is pushing, everyone is spinning, but MOST of the time it is on the edge of control chaos. I hope the rush this man got from the crowd was electric, as it usually is. And being jostled, not being able to see and being disorientated IS part of it. His attendants were there for that. A life worth living is different for everyone.....
Now skydiving with a respirator that may be tricky :)
Donna

Anonymous said...

"if it was his first time in a mosh pit,"
Thats a weird assumption to make. Its unusual to see someone in a hightech chair and with breathing equipment in a mosh pit but its unusual to see such people anywhere and just because we're not used to seeing them doing normal stuff doesnt mean they dont do it does it. The guy could be a regular party goer or it couldve been a special event,he couldve been born disabled or he couldve had an accident/illness and have been a mosher before that. He could be dying and going through his bucket list. Or he could just be a regular guy having a night out in an environment of his choice who just happens to be on wheels and needing adaptive equipment to breathe. Assuming it was a new thing for him and would be uncomfortable and scary rather than being a choice he was making isnt very 'equal rights' is it?