|Image description: The word 'HARD' in black and white block letters|
I said something to Joe that has been bouncing around in my head for a few days, "Sometimes I think they make it hard on purpose." I knew that I had heard that expression at a different time in a different place, and I knew that it was something that I had found important, had learned from.
After a while of chasing for the memory. I gave up. Memory doesn't like to be pursued, I find as I get older, it likes to show up at it's own time and pace. So, as I said, I let it go.
I saw a couple, downtown, walking together through the mall, she had Down Syndrome and he Cerebral Palsy. He drove his chair with a kind of scary, shaky skill, and she walked beside him with her hand resting lightly on the back of his chair. A lovely intimate scene.
And I remembered.
It was many years ago, I had been called to consult on a situation where a man and a woman had been separated by their support team because they were concerned that, as they had a disability, they were unable to consent to sexual behaviour. That they each lived, on their own, with minimal support didn't play into their figuring at all. To prove their point, one of the staff had developed a sexual consent test and both of them had failed. But, good for them, their persistence paid off and I was called in.
After meeting with both of them in turn, I felt it odd that someone would think they were non-consenting or that they weren't able to consent. They were very capable people and, in chatting with me, knowing it was about sexuality and relationships, they both seemed determined to prove to me that they knew what was what and what went where. They both said, with great emphasis that the test they took was unfair. The agency was really loathe to share the test with me but I insisted, couldn't do a report without it you know, and I was shocked when I saw it.
It was handed to me by a secretary who popped into the room where I was meeting with both of them. I began to look at it and my face must have changed in some way because the fellow said, "They make it hard on purpose." And, they had. There were words like coitus and fellatio and zygote ... words that I have never used in any sexual context at all except in situations like this when I write the words for some purpose. Sexuality is a plain language subject if anything is. No one ever says, "Would you like me to perform fellatio before we engage in coitus?" No. One. Ever.
I took the test, translated it into plain language, this was before the plain language movement, by simply using words that were easy to understand. They passed with flying colours.
They make it hard on purpose.
I had just started working in the field and a woman was running a bed making program on a (not with a) woman who lived in the home. I was new so I was shadowing staff, agencies should be really careful about this approach to training, and I watched the woman undergoing bed making training quickly and efficiently make her bed. She was told that she had failed to meet criteria because the pillows weren't placed properly. I was surprised because I figure if they are at the top of the bed, they are in place. The woman being trained looked deflated.
The program had been running for a couple of years and while she could make a bed, she hadn't met criteria. I asked the staff who let me in on a secret - set the criteria really high and you can keep a program running for years. If the program succeeds you have to write another one. This way was easier.
They make it hard on purpose.
I wonder how much of this goes on. People with disabilities being kept from sexuality or relationships or free community access or job opportunities by people who have made entrance hard on purpose.
I think back to that door. I think back to how easy it could be for me to have gotten in. Instead, Joe ran pushed the door opener then ran back and helped me up and then a quick turn to the right to get into the door before it closed on us. It could have been easy. Really easy.
But it was hard.
I'm not sure if it was on purpose.
Or if that even matters.