Tuesday, April 03, 2012

holding on

HOLD ON!!!!!


I was busy berating myself as I rode out of the drugstore. I had been shopping and my back wheel caught on a box that was jutting out from the shelf. The box shifted and two or three things tumbled to the floor. Nothing broke. There was no huge mess. But several people looked at me with annoyance - as if I'd come into their house and knocked their stuff over. I spoke to a clerk apologized and the clerk quickly picked up and put everything back. He made a comment about how things were just jammed in with all the holiday stuff.

And there I was moments later driving away annoyed at myself and my wheelchair for knocking stuff over. For being a clumsy disabled oaf. For taking up too much room in my chair. For not driving carefully enough. I was having a really good go at myself. I don't believe in corporal punishment for others but I think nothing of taking a switch to my self esteem and working myself into a lather as I draw blood.

But then ... out of somewhere ... somewhere quite new came a voice. A challenging voice ...

HOLD ON!!!!!


People knock stuff over.

It's something that people just do.

It's not something that wheelchair users do.

It's not something that people with intellectual disabilities do.

It's not something that has anything to do with any type or any kind of disability.

People knock stuff over.

Those looks I got from people. I know they were attributing the stuff on the floor to me and my wheelchair. I know that they were telegraphing their displeasure and the momentary pleasure that they had that it was I, not them, who had knocked stuff over. I know that they walked out of there thinking that disabled people make an awful mess. And if they hear a little voice ....

HOLD ON!!!!!


It's mine. Calling through this blog and into the world. Stop it. Stop attributing to disability what doesn't belong to disability. People knock stuff over. I knocked something over. I didn't start knocking stuff over the moment I sat down in the wheelchair. I've been knocking stuff over on and off throughout my lifetime. Big deal. It's an ACCIDENT. It isn't a statement about competence. It isn't an example of why we shouldn't be allowed out. It isn't a reason to rethink community living for those of us who are different.

So stop it.

Years ago a fellow with an intellectual disability was hit by a car running a traffic light. And the newspaper questioned why we let people with disabilities out unaccompanied. They didn't write about why people drive fast, or run lights. No. They acted as if he got hit because he had a disability rather than because a jerk was driving too fast and too carelessly.

HOLD ON!!!!!


I've got to stop holding my disability responsible for the dumb mistakes I make.

Parents have got to stop holding their child's disability responsible for bumps and bruises that come with childhood.

Society has got to let people with disabilities knock something off a shelf without acting as if their disability made it happen.

Sometimes stuff just happens.


There is an equation.

People with disabilities are fully human.

Fully human people make fully human mistakes.

Therefore people with disabilities will make fully human mistakes.


Kristin said...

Well said, Dave! Basically it boils down to sh*t happens whether we're black, brown, purple, polka dotted, disabled, or fully able (although I will argue whether there really is such a thing).

Education: Exploring Online Learning said...

Such a great post.

Anonymous said...


after your mentioning about what happend in the first paragraph that was the first thing I thought.

It is not because of your disability,if it had been me looking it would have been because of the noise that "knocking over stuff" makes.


Yes we are fully human and (thank god) stuff happens to us.


John R. said...

Great. Needed this.....the image of taking a switch to your self esteem and working yourself into a lather got to me...totally identify....and, I will ensure I do not do that today!!

And if knock some stuff over today..guess what???

I'm going to pick it up....and say, yup, knocked stuff over....sorry, and move on...love being human!

thanks Dave...

Tamara said...

Yep. Really love this one.

suelmayer said...

Great post! I often feel that when my son with Down syndrome does something in public people just naturally relate it to his diagnosis and they have forgotten that he is a 11 year old boy with opinions, likes, dislikes and feelings.

AuntMo said...

Thanks Dave! The timing was so perfect--I needed to read this post today.

Anonymous said...

TOTALLY! Being human, we knock stuff over, we’re a bit lazy sometimes, we make plans we don’t fulfil, we make decisions that are personally right for us but opaque to others around us, we spend too much money and get in to debt or worry about expense and deprive ourselves of what we can afford, we buy clothes and leave them in the cupboard with the tags on and never wear them....
As providers of support we have no right to get involved in any of this unless our input is sought out.
Apart from that, we could lead by example, but, I can’t say I’m rising to the challenge successfully on that one....

Liz Miller said...

Yes. YES.

Shan said...

I was only diagnosed with bull-in-a-freaking-china-shop at the age of 11, and my parents were at last able to find a reason behind all the heartbreak and broken bones and endless surgeries.

Natasha said...

And these kinds of judgements happen all the time... when someone witnesses something they consider a cultural stereotype... or a gender stereotype... it's so sad and frustrating, and hard not to take it personally when you're on the receiving end of the condescending look.

On another note, a friend of mine just posted this vid on Facebook... have you seen it? http://www.wimp.com/newdevice/
So interesting...

Joshua Griffin said...

I have to agree with the following comments. The attitude of who cares we all are human and make mistakes is the way to go. I think at times people just focus on the things that really don't matter a little too much. Who cares if someone knocks something over, I bit if they knocked something over they wouldn't want everyone looking at them. So that's why we need to think on we would want to be treated. Dave you always have wise words to say. Thanks