Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Blog Against Disphobia / Disablism

May 1st - Blogging against disphobia (disablism) day

Please participate through your comments, also drop by Diary of a Goldfish (www.blobolobolob.blogspot.com) to see the list of blogs participating and visit other disability blogs and let them know what you think, encourage dialogue - celebrate difference, diversity and disability.

My Blog to Note the Day:

Suddenly I understood exactly what she meant.

I had gone grocery shopping with friends at our local A and P and when it came time to check out there were three lines open. The till that is accessible wasn't one of them. This meant that I had to give money to my friends and then roll around and meet them on the other side because the aisleway was too narrow. I stopped at customer service and asked to speak to the store manager. He came, huffing, puffing and carrying boxes, up to the counter. The clerk indicated to him that I wanted to speak to him.

My point was simple. If they were only going to have one till open, it should be the accessible one. It isn't a hardship to the store, to their employees, to anyone. It's not a 'special' adaption they have to make for me. It's just thoughtful. And appropriate. And the right thing to do.

He nodded. Vacantly. Muttered something about me 'having a point'.

I let it go. He said the right things. I just knew he didn't care. Wouldn't do anything about it.

So I understood what she had to say.

It was at the self advocate conference last week that I met her. She came up to the podium where I was seated during the morning break. She was short, dark-haired and determined. In the morning session people had called out various things that had made them feel ... glad, sad, mad and scared. It was just a quick exercise to affirm our right to feelings and our right to express how we feel.

She must have put her hand up, I must have missed it. No surprise, it was a huge room and she was a tiny woman.

As I was on a stage, she peered up at me and said, "I have something to say." I smiled and bid her go ahead. I was curious as to what had brought this woman with Down Syndrome up to speak to me. "What makes me happy," she said, brushing away tears. Suddenly she was crying and had to stop. I was confused. She was going to talk about something happy, but tears were falling.

After a minute or two, she pulled herself together.

"What makes me happy, is when people listen to me. Not just nod their heads, but listen to me." And she was crying again.

"They don't listen much, do they?" I said.

"No, they don't," she said, "But when they do it makes me really happy."

I asked her if she would like to come up and do a roll play in the second part of the morning workshop and she said, shyly, that she was a little afraid to be in front of everyone. I suggested she try and instead of looking at the crowd, all three hundred of them, she could just look at me. She agreed to try.

She came up and did a role play about saying 'no' to a bus driver who tried to grab her. When done the crowd cheered her. She wasn't so small anymore. As she turned to leave she said, "They listened."

I winked at her and she broke into laughter.

"They don't listen to us much do they," I said in my heart - telegraphing my sentiment to her across the miles, she in Missouri, me in Ontario. Somehow it doesn't matter if she heard me, it only matters that she understands. "They don't listen to us much ..."

But they will.

One day they will.

Because we've had the dream.

One day, together, we'll have the power.


Jacqui said...

I hope so. Thanks Dave.

jennifergg said...

To be heard...such a basic human need. Thank you for reminding me to listen.

Ruth said...

To be heard - part of being treated as a full human being. Wonderrful post.

Imperfect Christian said...

She said it so perfectly, so eloquently. We need to listen. Until I became the mother to two daughters with Down syndrome, I don't think I DID take the time to listen like I should have, not just to people with disabilities, but to people in general.

We all deserve to be heard. We all deserve to be listened to.

Belinda said...

Her support worker took her to the hairdressing school for the haircut they'd been talking about and anticipating for days. The price was right for someone on a limited income--$5. Beauty is a feminine pursuit--and she is no exception. She uses a wheelchair to get around,her speech is slow and she struggles with wounds we can't begin to understand in her past--but she loves to look beautiful--and doesn't need much help to reach that goal. With nails painted, pretty make up and highlights in her hair, her glamour shots are more glamourous than mine would be--if I ever had one.

With a little help from her staff, she described the look she wanted--she was growing her hair and she wanted it long.

The student hairdresser started snipping. Hair began to fall too quickly and in too large quantities. "Stop cutting," she said, but the "stylist" kept cutting. "Just relax," is what she said. The support worker saw something unfolding and intervened, caught between the need to help someone stay calm in a situation in which no woman should stay calm--"No, that's not what she wants," she said, "stop cutting."

The instructor hearing raised voices, comes over and takes the scissors--more hair is falling to the ground. The support worker is angry now, trying not to make a scene, but not succeeding, "This isn't what she wants," she says,"You're supposed to be listening to what the customer wants--stop."

Unbelievably, they are asked to leave. "I give you people five dollar hair cuts all the time," the instructor says, "and I don't have this trouble."

The support worker doesn't want to go back there ever again--would love to black list the establishment, but she knows that the woman she supports will want to go back and her job is to support her in that in the best way she can.

How to respond to this school? We want to use the opportunity to teach respect for the customer whoever they are, but it's probably especially important when serving someone whose voice is rarely listened to.

The support worker--a passionate, intelligent, humane staff,new to the world of support and disability, is working through her own stuff from this incident--four days after it her emotions are still shredded and seething--she's developing her philosophy of support, trying to find the path that will result in change for good. Venting anger in the moment might not be that path--or maybe it is. Does anyone have thoughts?

Never That Easy said...

Everybody does just want to be heard... but when it's someone with a disability, it's often seen as being whiny or aggressive, or a million other things. Hopefully, you're right, that someday it'll just be human.

All 4 My Gals said...

My daughter will already tell us, "You're not listening". She has to have eye contact and affirmation...at 7! I only hope that life doesn't take this determination to be heard from her spirit. I want her to be happy...always.

Thanks Dave because next time I am cooking, dressing....and don't give her eye contact I will remember that she is trying to tell me...she wants to be happy!

All 4 My Gals said...

Oh heck, you wanted our Disablism post links too:

Anonymous said...

You might not know it, but I am one of your biggest fans. In fact I have awarded you the Blogging Thinker award...twice!

Well Dave, now you've gone and done it. You've made me cry with this beautifully bittersweet post. True, I am an emotional mess of late, but now I am sitting at my desk wiping my eyes. I'm wearing makeup, Dave. Makeup does not mix well with tears.

Thank you.

Michelle said...

Wonderfully written post, as always.

I also did a blogging against disablism post today in honor of my daughter, who has Down syndrome.

Anonymous said...

Seems we were on the same subject...but I liked the warm tone of yours...:)


Philip. said...

What a lovely post.

Take care.

Philip :-)

The Goldfish said...

This was lovely, thank you so much. :-)

David said...

Thanks Dave. Great post. It's so important to be heard.

Anonymous said...

Hi. Do you have an email I can contact you through?


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