There was a whack of us having dinner. Ruby and Sadie each had given me huge hugs. Everyone had settled and Ruby was sitting beside me and we were working on a WordSearch puzzle that had been provided by the restaurant on a kiddie menu. Two men had come in, both in wheelchairs, and had been seated at a table nearby. I admit that I had barely registered that they were there. We were all wrapped up in the happenings of the moment and bringing each other up to date on news.
After eating, the kids were a bit restless and occasionally wandered a bit around our table. They were being quiet and they weren't roaming far and, most importantly, the restaurant wasn't busy so they weren't disturbing anyone. They looked out the window. They played with a couple of toys brought with them. They giggled with each other. Over maybe twenty minutes they alighted at the table in their seats five or ten times.
We were wrapping up and getting ready to go when I turned and saw one of the two guys smiling, quite genuinely, as he watched me get a couple of big 'goodbye' hugs from the girls. I smiled back. It was just a small little interchange that I was totally OK with being 'caught on film.'
In the car, driving away, Joe said, "Did you notice anything about the girls?" I admitted, that other than it was great to see them, I didn't notice anything in particular. Well, Joe had been sitting on the other side of the table facing out into the restaurant and was in full view of the girls as they played and of the two men in wheelchairs at the other table.
"They didn't notice the two guys." Joe said, leaving that to hang in the air.
Joe knows that sometimes I tense up when kids come into a restaurant or a theatre or a mall, almost all of them almost always, as they glance over the place, stop short when they see me. They stare, they point, they make note of my difference. Few parents parent about this, perhaps because many of them stare too. I had thought for a long time that it was more about my weight than my chair, but in talking with others with disabilities I find this not true. It's simply about difference. I am 'dually different' but that isn't, I'm told, really an issue. With difference, one will do.
But here, in the restaurant were two kids completely reacting to two diners at one table with a difference apiece. They were both in wheelchairs. Yet the kids incorporated them into their experience as if they were simply two people in the room. They are used to wheelchairs being in their world. They are used to seeing people sit to eat. So, they saw but didn't see, the two men.
That is, I suppose, one of the great gifts that including kids with disabilities in school will give us, as a society. Broadening the perspective of what's human and narrowing the definition of 'difference'. It takes a long time for social change to happen. But it will, I believe now, happen.
I thought the guy was smiling at the hug. And maybe he was. But also maybe, he was smiling in thankfulness of the gift of being in the presence of children who could see him without staring at him. Who could play around him without stopping, their gaze sticking on the adhesive of his difference, and continuing on.
I got hugs, others got a gift, it was a nice evening.
This is off topic from your post, but I've been binge reading this blog for the last two days, starting at the beginning, and hitting 'newer post' each time.
But then when I was away from my computer, I tried to read your blog on my Kindle, which has a greyscale screen. That's when I discovered that the light/dark contrast between the text and the background is very poor and quite difficult to read without the colour. Since that makes it an accessibility problem for people with vision problems, I thought you would want to know.
Thank you so much for your blog. Being housebound, I see so few people, that it is wonderful to get a little diversity-by-proxy through your stories. :)
I'll also note that Blogger does not have a 'standard' template that meets Web Accessibility standards. I have tried to tweak the template on my own blog to be more accessible, but it's tricky and complicated, and no one should have to learn to code web pages to have an accessible blog.
I think I wrote to Blogger to complain about it, but I can't remember now if I did.
Welcome to Dave's blog! I'm a long time regular reader here ... and I have been known to "binge read" good blogs that I've just discovered too!
When you are all caught up with Dave's blog, I encourage you to consider also binge reading http://ballastexistenz.wordpress.com, another great blogger named Amanda Baggs.
Yes, I agree that blogging platforms should make it easier for bloggers to make their blog sites as fully accessible as possible. Meaning, all themes should be disability friendly, as you point out. And (speaking as someone who has done my own blog, albeit via wordpress rather than blogger) it frustrates me that there isn't a button that a blogger can hit when we want to add an "alt tag" description to a picture for people who use text to voice (or text to Braille) screen reading software--you have to actually understand how to edit the raw html coding in order to incorporate a description. Standard blogging platforms should be set up so that accessibility is the automatic default even if it hasn't occurred to the blogger to make it accessible. If someone wants to be disability-hostile, make THEM be the one to become an expert at html and java script so they can do the work of re-programming their blog.
Your post made me remember and experience I had in a Walmart a few years back. Since I have my service dog with me almost every where I go and since she is smaller the the average service dog we together attract attention of kids and adults alike I am used to people approaching me to speak about Nikki the wonder dog. A young boy of about 3 or for had been trying to follow me thru the store. Not staring really just trying to keep up with me much to his Dad's dismay. Dad was by the way openly staring. This went on for some time until he was able to break a way from his dad and follow me down the frozen aise. He said very politely excuse me can I ask you something" Score one for manners. I stopped and he asked if my legs got tired when I walked. Not if I was broken or what was wrong with me. I said yes so when I come to big stores I use my chair. He said he liked it cause it was purple and that he thought it was neat that Nikki's harness matched it. He said it sort of made Nikki and I like super hero and sidekick cause ya know we matched and all . He went off to re join his dad and I thought it was very cute and sweet and then I heard him say to his Dad It's not nice to stare we learned about that in school, you are probably hurting her feelings. I saw his dad do a double take. I am so very glad they are teaching this starting in preschool for parents who don't know how to handle it cause they weren't taught. I was impressed with the young man and his manners. It still makes me feel good two years later
lilytigre: I <3 that little kid, score one for manners, score 100 for putting his father in his place with aplomb :)
Happy and Andrea: it looks like the blogosphere needs to learn the lessons of Ruby and Sadie- see the difference just don't make it an issue!
Brilliant post Dave :D
Happy, Thanks for your comments about accessibility. One of the issues is that the disability community has varying and sometimes conflicting needs. Some people need the black on white contrast, others need the white on black. I change the template monthly so that I can try to accomodate everyone some of the time. I hope you understand and I assure you the next template will have black print, light background.
Oh, Dave....My four granddaughters don't blink when wheelchairs, walkers, even ventilators come close. It started WAY WAY back..my middle daughter had a very close friend as a grade school student whose Mom had advanced ALS- my Kimmy, age 10, learned to suction Mom when she was visiting (under supervision of the caregiver, of course). Since then, we have two special needs kids in our family. My granddaughters have ridden on our Amy's power chair since they were days old. I get it.
Dave, it's not the light on dark I was talking about, it's the fact that the medium-light text isn't light enough to show up on a medium-dark background if you can't perceive the colour differences.
Happy, I'm just going to need to concede that I don't have as much savvy on the computer as I'd like to. What I do, with those who read 'white text' is check with them on a new template, they indicate if it works. Some may notice tha the colours change, sometimes several times, when a new template comes on line. I made other changes like using larger typefaces and so forth. So, for these readers, it works. I will be switching at the end of the month. I think that you said that this was a problem, not on your computer but on Kindle, I've never seen a Kindle screen and am unsure how to design a post here to fit there. Anyways. I change the screen monthly to accomodate as many as possible.
Oh no, I doubt many people would come here from kindle, as it's a pain in the butt to use for web surfing. I wouldn't expect anyone to optimize for that.
lillytigre, great, great story!
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