Monday, May 30, 2016

Some of My Best Friends Are ...

So, I'm still writing about the People in Motion show.

I was, as I said, a little disturbed at the lack of people with disabilities working the show rather than simply attending the show. I decided, then, that I'd have conversations with the non-disabled staff just like I'd have with someone who had a disability and was working the same booth.

So, I had a huge chat with a transportation guy who showed me a new accessible bus. I looked around, remarked that it was my first time on a city bus and would be the last time I was on one. He talked to me a little more about the space and the accessible configuration of that space. I said the issue wasn't space the issue was safety. He then started to talk about the safety features. I stopped him and talked to him about the social side of safety. The other passengers and their reaction to me and my chair getting on the bus and taking time. The anger and frustration that I know would be part of that experience both for me and the driver. At this point a woman with a disability got on the bus and between the two of us we played ping pong with the realities of social and physical violence which comes with being on transit. A full 5% of the time I get on the subway I am met with hostility to the point of violence when I want to park my chair in the accessible space. In fact, I have not ridden the subway for several months because the last time I was on I was so frightened for my physical safety that I was traumatized by the experience. You can't talk about accessibility without talking about safety. The woman with the disability who had got on and I both agreed that, it's wonderful to have an accessible bus but it would be nice to have an accessible bus.

Then it was the chat with the non-disabled accessibility officer for a large city service who did not know that there was an International Day of Disabled Persons or when it was, which would explain why there had never, in that service been any acknowledgement of the day in the same way as they had with International Women's Day or Gay Pride day or Caribana weekend. She rapidly took notes, but, um, if your sole job is about accessibility and disability, um, shouldn't that be a given.

After that I spoke about hate crime statistics with someone from a government department that kept wanting to talk to me about the virtue of doing customer service training as a means of social change. Seriously.

I'm being a little mean. I know.

Everyone I spoke to was really nice, was really interested in our conversations and was willing to take input on various issues.

I just wished that they saw 'accessibility' as maybe people with disabilities having access to jobs where their experience as people with disabilities would give them a depth of understanding of both the social or the physical aspects of disabilities.

The one disabled salesman I met, man, he could sell. His disability gave him a credibility that others lacked. I'm not sure why that's not obvious.

So, now it comes off that I'm prejudiced against the non-disabled, I'm not really, I'm married to one and some of my best friends are non-disabled.


Some are.


Frank_V said...

In regards to that "less than informed" disabled accessibility office: Why am I not surprised?

Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt said...

The reality is that these non-disabled people probably see disabled people as people needing services such as being delivered to the doctor's office.

Not as working stiffs.

Not as 'normal' people.

As 'other.'

They think of disabled people as 'needing accommodation,' not as people doing jobs.

Not as contributors.

Which is made worse because many people whose disabilities are not as great or not as noticeable desperately hide them and try to pass as 'normal.'

So it is not at all obvious how many disabled people there really are.

Vicious circles everywhere.

Jim Currie said...

This article and the comments are very sad. Why do you have to be so critical of people who are doing the best that they can? Simply having a disability is not the only quality that is relevant in understanding disability.

I assume that the organisations who employ them had proper recruitment processes to pick the best candidates and that disabled people were not excluded.

If I was suffering from a medical condition I would want to be treated by a doctor with some knowledge of the condition rather than someone who simply had the same condition.

nightengalesknd said...

Why do we have to be critical?

Because individual employees may be doing the best they can, but organizations that serve people with disabilities are not doing the best they can to include, let alone feature the perspectives of people with disabilities.

I do not trust that organizations are free from discriminatory hiring practices. Many have a "we take care of them" attitude. The idea that "we" can also be "them" doesn't always sink in. When I ask organizations if they have people with disabilities in leadership positions, I am often told not to worry, they have many parents of people with disabilities involved. I can't tell you how many disability-related events I have attended that ask me to check either the "professional" or "person with a disability" box.

I can't speak for all professions, but I know health professions actively discriminate against people with disabilities. In the US, 8.8% of college freshman have disabilities. Less than 1% of medical students do. I experienced daily discrimination in medical school which would not have been the case if there had been people with disabilities involved in the development of the curriculum and policies.

I am both disabled and a doctor. I have met doctors who know specific things about specific conditions I have. I have never met a doctor who knows anything useful about living with any of the conditions that I have compared to what I have learned from other people with the same conditions. With the exception of the use of specific medications, most of what I use when I take care of patients with disabilities comes from things I learned from other people with disabilities, not from other non-disabled doctors.

Unknown said...

Health professions definitely are an area where anyone who has a visible or suspected invisible disability is unwelcome to enter. If you are already a skilled professional AND have a 'not too obvious' disability and happen to have some expertise in an area that is underserved, you might keep the job you have. But plan to do your accommodating on your own, as much as least, for nursing that is how it usually plays. Or work in a union setting.

Dave Hingsburger said...

I suppose I don't have to point out thay having someone hired to welcome guests to a show on disability products is substantively different from being an MD. I think that I even noticed and then raised the point demonstrates our(my) growing acknowledgement, as disabled persons, that we are unfairly discriminated against in regards to employment even in organizations that are set up to promote integration and inclusion. Jim, I am sure that you would recognise that women have been kept out of upper management and senior positions by those very recrutment processes that you seem to think are always fair and just. You realize, I would imagine that people of colour who have western names are more likely to get an interview than those who don't ... prejudice exists in recruitment. No one with a disability finds this surprising.

Ruti Regan said...

Please remember that those of us with disabilities are also acting in good faith and doing the best we can.

It's not about being gratuitously negative. It's about describing and responding to a very difficult reality.

I can only really speak for myself, but when I talk about these things, it's coming from a place of love. I believe that God loves us as much as anyone else (or, if you prefer secular language, that we are all equally human and worthy of love and respect.)

Out of love, I believe that we can do better. That it doesn't have to be like this. That we can name the things that are marginalizing and dehumanizing us, and that we can grow past this situation and build something better.

From my perspective, the negative thing would be to assume that the way we're treated is inevitable. That either we somehow deserve to be treated badly, or that others are somehow incapable of treating us well.

Out of love, I refuse to accept that worldview. People with disabilities deserve to be respected as equal human beings, and others are capable of learning to be respectful. What could be more positive than that?