Saturday, August 10, 2019


We were having lunch at a small cafe in a mall near the hotel in which we were staying. The food court was a few feet down and around the corner from us. We we chatting over our meal when Joe's face froze. He said quietly to someone other than me, "Put the fucking phone away."

I turned to see a woman with a disability trailing behind her staff who was walking far to quickly and whose face was in her phone. If she had put her phone away she would have noticed that the woman with a disability was having a great deal of difficulty with the pace that she had set. The disabled woman's face was flushed and sweaty. The effort she was making to keep up and walk beside her staff showed all over her expression.

She never caught up to her staff. Not that we saw anyway. She was about 4 feet behind her. Her desperation to be with the staff was lost in the staff desperation to be somewhere else, somewhere where 'likes' from strangers were worth more than the 'would like to walk with you' from the woman with a disability.

People were watching.

They saw an uncaring staff whose message of "I can't be bothered, even for pay, to spend time with the likes of the woman with me." was strongly delivered

They saw a disabled woman whose message of "I want to feel involved and included even by those who disrespect me." looked pathetic and weak.

Everything was wrong with what we saw.


After some thought I realized that that staff was thieving from the agency that hired her. She was thieving from the woman with a disability who probably waiting for this 'outing' and was desperate for it to be fun and fulfilling. She was thieving from the community that witnessed this, a community that should have been learning that disabled people have value and that staff provide a service.

Agencies may be very concerned about petty cash and how it balances.

They should be more worried about the theft of time and dignity from the people they serve.

Time and dignity.

That's what she stole.

But I'll bet she handed in the receipts pronto.


Unknown said...

Thank you for your raw honesty and clear vision. Until we begin respecting one another again, care-giving will continue to be in crisis.
Jan Carlini / Direct Care Coaching

Unknown said...

Thanks for this. I just posted a link to it on my course webpage. I am a sessional instructor with the BSW program at our local college. I developed and teach a course on disabilities for social work students. I have also worked in the field of disabilities for over 20 years. Your post was not only a powerful read, but deeply affirming. As I have said to my students, the way we interact with people with disabilities, either in a professional or a personal context, is a model for the rest of the community.

I still struggle with the memory of entering our local community centre as a support worker was leaving, along with the person she was apparently "supporting." The man held the door open for me, and the support worker, in what was (I'm guessing) an effort to "reinforce" prosocial behaviour, declared "Good boy!" Now...I should qualify this by saying I am a middle aged woman, but I can only play the "menopause" card so much as a rationale for my immediate, and overwhelming response. And sure, there may be something in the "that's just your French temperament" quip from my partner....but the fact is, I was furious. And offended on behalf of someone who very likely lives with this kind of well-meaning and utterly offensive ministration on a regular, if not daily, basis. Absolutely, the smart phone lends itself to serving as socially sanctioned way to dismiss the presence of another. And, such behaviour is simply, in my opinion (held tightly, and in one official language and a garbled other official language) another manifestation of the pervasive disregard for human beings who apparently don't rate basic human consideration of their dignity.