Thursday, April 29, 2010

I Didn't Give it Up

Things happen to disabled people that happen to no one else. At least so I suspect. Let me tell you about what happened at the conference. I was attending the session given by a friend of mine, I arrived on time as is my wont. I received a handout package that I was holding in my hands. I didn't feel a need to flip through it because all content was on the screen. A few minutes later a woman comes in, sees the seat next to me empty and pulls it back. I'm in the back row so she is just making room with the chair.

The session was on how to help people with intellectual disabilities. How to listen, to support and to encourage. Good stuff and I was enjoying it. As the session was coming to a close I noticed the latecomer woman get a little fidgety. Like she wanted to dash out right away.

She reached over and tapped my arm for my attention. Here's our conversation:

tap tap


pointing to my handout package, "You aren't going to use that package so give it to me please.'

'No, you can get one after up front.'

OK, it's not dialogue from a Broadway play but it's interesting. Her tone of voice was directive. I was being told what the situation was and what I as going to do. I'm way passed that kind of compliance so I simply said no. I had no need for confrontation and no need to create a scene.

She was annoyed and my 'non compliance'.

I told someone about this and they said, 'She probably thought you had an intellectual disability and that you wouldn't be using the handout.' Did I just land from Pluto or is that a weird thing to say. So instructing people with intellectual disabilities to give up their things for the betterment of staff is a GOOD thing.





Jannalou said...

This incident reminds me of an incident that happened to me a couple of years ago. It made me ask myself some very important questions, and I think everyone who works in the disability services field should consider these things very carefully.

wendy said...

Just sitting here shaking my head.

CAM said...

She probably did think you had an intellectual disability. She probably did think that because of that, you had no need to have the handouts.
She is likely a person who provides direct care to people with intellectual disabilities.
It is in no way a good way to think, but it is a widespread way of thinking among staff.
It is so frustrating that it is sometimes an overwhelming feeling, like there is no hope.

Anonymous said...

The woman beside you and the person you discussed the matter with were attending a conference at which you might think they were expecting to learn something. They both missed the boat.


Terri said...


Funny, my captcha word is 'sockingm' which is just what I was thinking pf doing!

Anonymous said...

Dear Dave,

I am a staff person for two different people with intellectual disabilities. I always feel like I'm not treating them with the proper respect. I sincerely try to always respect them, however, I find myself doing too much or (one does not have speech and asks me to speak for him)anticipating their needs. I live in fear of bypassing what they really want in favor of what I think they need. I want so badly to learn to be the best for them I can.(I do ASK them too.) Where can I get materials or could you suggest a book or two? Please help, I so want to treat them with every bit of consideration they deserve.

Jeannette said...

It would not surprise me if she's pretty much like that with everybody, whether disabled or not. She didn't bother to ask you if you'd be using the handouts, which is what a person with normal courtesy would do. She jumped to a conclusion that happened to suit her own convenience.
Unfortunately, the woods are full of people like that.

Cynthia F. said...

YIKES! So much unexamined privilege - I've been encountering this lately in the "why don't those immigrants learn English?" vein too...

Rachel Cohen-Rottenberg said...

Oh, Dave, unbelievable. Well, actually, not unbelievable, because things like this happen all the time, but my poor brain cannot truly comprehend the answers to any of the following:

1) Did this woman's parents teach her manners? If not, why not? If so, did she just ignore her parents? And if she ignored them, did her parents fail to intervene in a way that might have made a difference in her future outcome?

2) Why would your being in a wheelchair make her assume that you would not be using the handout? (This is my gloss, but it seems right.)

3) Why would your attending a session on helping people with intellectual disabilities imply anything about how you might score on a culture-specific IQ test, and why would anyone offer that as an explanation for the woman's behavior?

4) Why would your intellectual abilities have anything to do with whether you have a right to hold onto your handout?

These are the things that keep me up at night. I've had people explain this kind of ignorance to me, but I will never comprehend it, really. I knew better than to act that way when I was four years old.

Jan said...

I am dismayed by this woman's attitude and I wish I was shocked but I see too much of this attitude by some of the staff at various agencies. How can we take the careful respectful attitude of anonymous and give it to people who are not even aware of the disrespectful attitude that they have. I am sure that by saying no to this woman your behaviour was noted as noncompliant to a perfectly reasonable request. People like that most times are not even aware of their rude and controlling behaviour. That to me is the scary part.

Anonymous said...

Polysyllabic expletive!

That schlub needs more than a handout.

"Please check your smug-ass privilege at the door."

Word verification: chrerav. (shreh-RAV) Maybe that should be some neologism for especially-clueless-privileged-staff-et-al. That would be the adjective form, of course. The noun would be a chreravnik.

Kate said...

If she had asked for it politely, maybe she would have gotten it. I have given people flyers I am not using before if they asked politely and vice versa. She was ridiculous.

romham a bear said...

it's interesting to me that no one thought that perhaps the woman in question had an intellectual disability, or something else going on. i mean perhaps not, but it's within the realm of the possible, no?
or, she was just being a rude, entitled wanker.
but who knows, yknow?