Today we drove through Mobile, Alabama, on our way to Orange Beach where I will be lecturing for the next two days. As we hit the outskirts Joe asked me, "Do you remember the self advocate session you did in Mobile a few years back?" I told him that I did. Without another word we both laughed.
I had been asked to do a session for the self advocates in Mobile by a woman I've known for years. We'd met when she was working in the north and then she and her family moved south. She knew I did self advocate sessions because I'd done one for her in Illinois. There it had been a typical group of self advocates who came together to talk about rights, there was laughter and grumbling and even the occasional complaint. A good group, like almost every other group I've facilitated except the concerns were regional even if the themes were universal.
Then came the group in Alabama.
I've never done a self advocate group like it.
They were so, what's the word, genteel.
Well mannered young ladies and gentlemen.
Captain Butler and Katie Scarlett O'Hara with a disability.
Here a behaviour problem would be forgetting to dump a bucket of sugar into a cup of iced tea.
It constantly surprises me, in a way that confirms the fact that I still have prejudices to conquer and stereotypes to eliminate, that people with disabilities are as much a product of their culture as they are a product of genes. These people with disabilities were a reflection of their upbringing, they behaved like other non-disabled southerners. I know that, but it still suprises me.
I remember being really surprised to see a young woman with Down Syndrome speaking French in Quebec. At first I thought it was 'cute' that she could do that. Then I realized that she spoke French because she was French Canadian. Duh. And don't make me tell you what I thought when I first spoke to a self advocate with a British accent!
So then ...
Disability doesn't mean foreigner.
I need to be reminded of that regularly.