I realize that I left you hanging, wondering what happened, by skipping a day from the sequence of the story of our trip to the movies in Richmond. I did this because I wanted to think a little more about what I wanted to write. I also wanted to be a bit calmer so I could be more thoughtful. I give thanks to the fact that I finally realized that what I thought when angry isn't necessary what I would think when calm.
Some of you may be waiting for an ultimate confrontation or resolution.
That didn't happen.
What I wanted to write about was an overheard conversation from two people who had been in the same movie theatre, watching the same movie, where the same events occurred. Where a woman with a disability had to repeatedly use sounds, like a low and then rising moan, to call her staff to her side. I was not concerned about the moans, they didn't bother me, I was bothered by the behaviour of the staff.
But the people whose conversation I overheard didn't notice the staff, didn't notice that the moans had meaning, they only noticed the noise.
One: "Those people shouldn't be allowed in movie theatres, it costs a lot of money to go to a movie and to have it ruined by that G*d damned noise is f*cking ridiculous."
Other: "I agree! They were better off when they were put away."
The conversation sickened me.
Clearly these are people who don't have a great degree of tolerance for people with disabilities. I'm betting if a child was in the movies they may complain that the child was noisy but they wouldn't suggest locking children away. The fact that the idea of institutionalization is still a quick option for those frustrated by the behaviour of someone with a disability tells me that community living and inclusion are still fragile social ideas.
What makes this horrific to me is that those staff, and their behaviour, their lack of support for a woman who didn't want to sit at the end of a row, alone, fuelled the latent bigotry and bias of members of the audience. These were two, were there more? Probably.
Our job isn't to just support people with disabilities as they live their lives in the community, our job is also to support the concept, the radical idea, that people with disabilities belong in the community. How we do our jobs publicly will either enhance the concept of civil liberties and freedoms for people with disabilities or it will detract from the idea that people with disabilities are a people deserving of civil liberties.
It's not fair.
But it's the way it is.
A poorly supported woman was blamed for her poor support.
And the suggestion that she be locked away, forever, is terrifying.
Damage was done.
All because someone made a decision that a woman with a disability wasn't worth sitting with, sitting beside. All because someone valued her so little that her voice, yes she had a voice, wasn't worth listening to.
A message to all staff and support people, you are supporting people with disabilities in the community and therefore you are supporting the concept of community living - never forget that your job is bigger than you thought, you are serving and individual and the cause of freedom at the same time.