Saturday, March 10, 2007


I woke up with the intent of having a 'non-blogger' day. I wanted nothing to write about. I wanted just to have a day off and enjoy having a day off. That lasted as long as the walk from my room to the hotel computer.

An email from Jon Dionne was waiting for me first thing this morning. He asked if I had heard about a case of a black guy with a disability being beaten up by white kids in Texas ... if I had heard that they just got a slap on the wrist for beating this guy so badly that he's in a nursing home learning to walk and talk again.

I had to.

I looked up the name 'Billy Ray Johnson' in Google and found the story. I ran out the 21 page article and took it with me. As Joe and I drove through Virginia Beach I read the story aloud to him, pausing for us both to react, with horror, indignation and even fury. By the time we got to the movie theatre I hadn't seen the beach, the ocean, the storefronts, nothing. And I was agitated. So was Joe who kept muttering under his breath about how cruel people could be. Driving through beautiful scenery reading about incredible brutality, that's how I spend my holidays. Fun. Wow.

So I was already in a state when I got into the movie theatre. We went to see "Wild Hogs" because we wanted a laugh. I parked my chair in one of the disabled spots and Joe went to get popcorn and pop. The front row filled up as a group of disabled people, mostly in chairs, arrived with a couple of care providers. You could tell they were care providers because they wore staff identification tags.

They had to rustle around to get everyone set and then one of the guys in a chair wanted something from the consession stand.


The nerve.

The movie was still a few minutes away from starting but she walked out there with an attitude that was clearly a slap across his face. He showed - fear. Actual fear.

I want to say this clearly to her and all like her.

You ungrateful PLOD. (Person Living Off Disability)

You are there to take him to the movie. You didn't buy the ticket to the movie. You are at work. You are getting paid. If he wanted popcorn at fifteen minute intervals it's your damn job to go get the popcorn. Who the hell do you think you are anyways - realize this, without him, his disability and his inconvienient desire for popcorn HE WOULDN'T NEED YOU AND YOU WOULDN'T HAVE A JOB - you'd be broke and left to your own devises to find victims for your pleasure.

If you act like that - like he's a piece of crap that you have to put up with. If you who are supposed to be here because you CARE, admit it you said it in your interview, then why are we suprised that people with disabilities get what they get by others in the community.

Yes, that's right, I'm drawing a direct line between you and your behaviour and the punch that put Billy Ray in the nursing home.

You didn't just get him popcorn.

You taught everyone in the theatre that it's ok to disrespect someone with a disability.

His fear taught them that he was a good victim.


Good days work.

I hope you are proud of what you do.


Anonymous said...

Dave, I read this as I was having a coffee and relaxing before I head off to my 12 hour shift in a group home, considered the "worst" one in my association....oh wait, no, now we are "second worst", but that is another story.

My days at work are long and often challenging, but more often full of fun because I am lucky enough to have good a coworker and the people we work for in that house are a fun (I think that is why they are labelled "difficult") bunch.

I could go on about the things I like about my job, but the thing I hate the most, is when a 30 year old man is afraid to ask us for something he wants. Will not give an opinion about what he would like to do that day. We do our best to tell him we are there working for him, and it is not up to us what he does. But I can't blame him for not believing us when just last week someone took his remote away because he was channel surfing. A 30 year old man. In his own home.

There are far too many examples of that. More serious ones too. It isn't that I sit back and complain about this and don't try to do anything about it. I have talked to other staff, I have spoken up in staff meetings.

I am frustrated. I am not sure what to do next as a part time weekend worker if I don't have support from management.

Susan said...

It's true. There's still way too much of this "out there". There's still a "battle" to get some staff to understand that it's NOT ABOUT THEM. It's ALL about the people they are being PAID to support.

On the other hand, there are people like Catherine who wrote the previous comment. Thank God for staff like you.

You might not be able to change the whole system on a dime, Catherine, but stick with it. Stay in there. You can make a difference. You ARE making a difference. I'll bet that fellow with the remote looks forward to your shifts... and the others you work with do too.

A suggestion from my own "files": Support the man with the remote in writing a letter to the supervisor of the home where you work. My guess is that in a safe place (with you) he is perfectly able to express his feelings, frustration, anger and what changes are needed. If he can't write it himself, then take dictation -- If he doesn't communicate in words, then write the letter on his behalf -- Have him give the letter to the manager of this home and be sure he copies in the manager's supervisor too.

Remind that fellow that HE has a voice and support him in using it any way you can.

lina said...

today you make me want to scream! How dare a person paid to support another person, act that way. I guarantee that had a higher paid superior within their organization asked for something - even popcorn at a fiftenn minute interval - there would have been no attitude.
How dare anyone feel that they have the right to be paid to make someone, anyone feel less of a person.
Clearly her action allows for the type of rulings received in cases where people with disabilities are assaulted.
I know there are more good people out there then bad, but i wish we could take all the bad people and.....
better left unsaid, but unto them i wish for their care in the future, when they someday need it, to be equal to the care they provided.
thanks for posting a blog, even though you wanted a day off.

Anonymous said...

you have told us what you think - what did YOU actually SAY to HER ?

She might have learnt something and never have done it again.


Shelley said...

PLOD - I love it! If ever my Hannah needs some PLOD to assist her I hope they LOVE going and getting her popcorn!

Anonymous said...


After thinking for a couple of days what to write as i was the one who started your day off on the wrong foot. Then it hit me all i have to say is Thank you! when i wrote you that e-mail i needed to hear someone else say the same things that i did and hpefully get the story of Billy Ray out a little bit more but i have to say i am not done with this i am not sure where i am going with it but i am going somewhere. so Thanks Dave for continuing to just be you!

Anonymous said...

Your story about the woman ("PLOD"!) who didn't want to get popcorn reminds me of some of the things that Amanda Baggs has said about staff people ("PLOD" in your terminology!) over at -- if you go there and look at the left hand column, you'll see a list of categories. Click on the one for "Staff." Many of her best posts (on all topics) are, unfortunately, uncategorized, but you'll still find plenty under "staff."

Maybe there is the need to start up a "Professional Allies" organization of "PLODs" like Catherine who work with people with disabilities and are supportive of their rights. This organization could work in coordination with disability-run organizations (e.g, etc etc) to advocate for better quality staff, better quality training for staff, etc.. Some of what Amanda has written about staff and "Do Gooders" at ballastexistenz could be good training material. Also her videotape on being an "unperson" ought to be required viewing, even for staff who don't work specifically with autistic people.