The MV1 draws attention to itself. Even when people don't know what it is or what it does. Once driving through city traffic, a fellow in a pickup truck, wearing dusty work clothes with a hard hat beside him on the seat, call over to me to ask what it was. He'd never seen it before, thought it looked cool. That reaction is common. We've grown tired of the game of point out people who drive past us craning to look back at the front of the vehicle to see what it is. It looks cool, that's good.
When the MV1 is doing what it's designed to do, however, people are gobsmacked. Seeing the ramp come out and deploy itself perfectly, seeing the chair roll easily down the incline. Well, that's something else entirely. I'm very private about these things, or I thought I was, so we try to embark and disembark with some privacy. But, this time, I'd notice him notice the van from about half a block away. I realised I didn't care one whit if he watched or not. He was a 12 year old, at the most, young boy pushing himself along in his wheelchair. He was accompanied by several adults and a couple of other children round about his age.
His eyes went wide when he noticed, the other's hadn't yet, the ramp making it's way to the ground. I knew what he was seeing because I felt the same way when I first saw it. A cool car, not a chopped up and reconfigured van. He started to rush ahead, wanting, I know, to ask questions. Then he was noticed and others rushed to catch up to him. When he got to us, they were all with him, I was at the top of the ramp in my manual chair about to make my way down.
"What is it?" he asked, and before I could answer, I kid you not, the woman with him, I'm assuming and may be wrong, his mother, said, "Don't you speak to him." Now I thought it was the stranger, danger, thing, and though I'd quibble that most strangers are safer, statistically, than family members, I let it go. But then ... then! She said, "If you want to ask about the vehicle you ask," here she pointed to Joe, "you don't talk to other disabled people, you don't want to get into that habit."
OK, tomorrow, I'll tell you what happened next, but I want to hear what you think what we both, Joe and I, should have done or said.
Wow. I'm hoping this somehow worked into a positive conversation and maybe even touched on disability pride, but I'm so curious to know what happened next? My best guess would be that as you and Joe were figuring out what to say, the kid insisted on finding out more....
OMG. I would have stood there speechless thinking where are Dave and Joe when I need them. I don't know that I can wait til tomorrow to find out what happened. I think she couldn't have picked a better person to say that to. I've been pondering this for 1/2 hour now and still haven't come up with a response.
What would I have done?
I like to think I'd have bellowed a polite-yet-evidently-pissed-off "EXCUSE ME?!"
Reality is that I probably would have sat there with my mouth hanging open in utter disbelief. Well, not quite disbelief. I have no trouble believing that it happened. But you know what I mean.
I suspect that by the time I regained the power of speech this harridan would have already grabbed the kid's chair and propelled him away. Seeing as how she knows best, and all.
My preferred response would be to pretend that the nondisabled people didn't even exist. Then to tell him to talk to whoever he wants to talk to, and to remember this no matter what anyone else tells him, because it would become really important in life to have other disabled people to talk to. Then give him the explanation he asked for. The reason I would do this is there is limited time. I could tell off the parent for being a bigot but it seemed more important to slip in a counter-message to what the parent was saying, because it's the kid who would suffer most if this message wasn't given. That's all I'd they would stick around long enough for me to type a response of course.
All I'd -> all if
I'm sure I would have reacted very badly to that one ... I hope you were able to engage in a meaningful conversation about her perspective and attitude, but for someone who came on that strong right in front of your face, I can't imagine that you could get through to her.
I've seen what I think are similar attitudes before - parents who refuse to allow their child to participate in anything other than activities with their typical peers only.
If I'm feeling generous I think they take the idea of inclusion and misinterpret it to believe that only activities with typical peers can allow them to live up to their full abilities - as if someone else with a disability will hold them back.
When I'm not being so generous, I feel more like they are just permanently in denial that their child has a diability because they just don't respect people with disabilities.
Never have I felt "better" or more at ease after I found out, that out there people with my kind of disabilty (congenital heart defect) are living their life, co-existing with the normal folks and trying to have the best life possible. And no one can zell from the outside about "invisible" disabilitys. For your sake and her own your mother has a lot if learning to do and predjudice to overcome. (And maybe some inner hurt.)
It's a difficult situation, because some parents react in a quite offended manner when contradicted in front of their kids (it doesn't make sense, but it's still the case). Perhaps pointing out that you are in a better position to explain the advantages of that car for a wheelchair driver would get the point across that sometimes, the company of other disabled people is very helpful, but would still stick to the concrete situation and not cause a debate on education...
Jaw dropping. I think I would be speechless. Excuse ME?
"Don't mind her.. some of 'them' don't realize how cool disabilities can be [wink] .. like this neat car. It's called a.."
Wow. I'm honestly at a loss. I can't think of anything you could have done. If the kid wasn't there, I'd say let her have it and tell her how offensive she is being. But if your goal is to somehow change her mind so that she stops doing this to her kid, I don't know if scolding her in front of him would work... however, maybe it still would have been the best thing to do just so the kid heard a different perspective.
What a sad story.
I don't even know how I'd react. I think I would have been too shocked to say anything at all beyond "Excuse me?!" The mother's attitude doesn't make sense to me, I don't know if it's because I'm so socially inept or what, but it's illogical.
"How dare you try to teach your son that disabled people are lesser and shouldn't be spoken to? Is that what you want him to believe about himself?" And then turn to the son and tell him all about the cool car.
Not that I would, because I'd never be able to think that fast. At best, I might manage a frosty "I beg your pardon?" which is the approved Miss Manners way of rebuking rude people.
I'm speechless and I imagine I would have been so in the situation too.
Fortunately, (or sometimes unfortunately,) my face is an open book and can be more scathing than any words in the dictionary. She would have KNOWN, but maybe not understood, so words were needed to explain to this woman. I think the most that I could have managed would have been, "I BEG your pardon???" and let her take it from there and see where that led. No good was going to come of her remark--for her--but hopefully some relief for the young man with her, from the oppression of Neanderthal Woman (with apologies to the Neanderthal clan.)
A better thing to have said might have been, "WHAT did you just say?" just to signal that if she was brave or stupid enough to repeat it, she had a fight on her hands. Sorry if this was supposed to be educational, sometimes screaming is all one can do!
Too many of these responses speak to the adult and not the kid. There are two huge problems with this.
One, and most important -- the kid may get the message that you are confirming his mothers message, by speaking to the nondisabled mother and not the disabled son.
Two, you may be assuming that if you tell her, he will pick up your message by osmosis. Children are not as good at doing this as adults. Tell the kid directly that it's important for him to connect with disabled people and that his mother is wrong. And then explain about the car. Let the mother pick up the indirect message that she's being horrible.
I would not have known what to say or do. I would have been in totally stunned mode.
I believe that this person's thinking stems from the idea that there is more stigma attached to groups of people with disabilities appearing in public than there is to a single person with a disability appearing with a group of non-disabled people. How profoundly disturbing - a good way to support the status quo and prevent the development of any activism and pride movements. I suspect that she thinks that her strategy is emancipatory rather than oppressive. She needs an education. And though I can't think how you might have achieved this in the circumstances I sure hope you gave her one!
I would have laughed, and laughed, and laughed, and laughed. Right out loud, right then and there, because that's just HILARIOUS. I'm laughing right now. I just woke up my dog.
I guarantee you and Joe doubled over in laughter, roaring "Don't get into the habit of talking with the disabled!! HA HA!! Don't get into that habit, Joe! HA HA HA!!" would embarrass hell out of her.
Some people, you can't take too seriously.
I am - as I would have been in this situation - stunned by her rudeness. In fact, merely READING of this exchange has made my right eye twitch.
I have a feeling that I'd have ignored her, answered him and then thought of a zillion wise, witty and caustic things to say to her...AFTERWARD.
Sigh. I'm much more eloquent online than I am in real life - looking forward to reading what you did/said.
Like everyone else, I am gobsmacked. I don't know what I would or should have done, but all I would have felt like doing is roaring wordlessly with rage.
Though this does remind me of the two young adults who rode with you on the bus that day, who were taught to talk only to the "normal people" and never to each other, because they were "Integrated"...
At the time I read that first story, I thought it was just the misguided policies of the educators at the school. But now, I'm wondering if there's an "special education" article circulating out there, purportedly written by some "expert," that's influencing social and educational philosophies in wider circles.
I fear someone has "thrown a poisoned apple into the town well," and people are starting to fall under its spell (and yes, my favorite object of study is fairy tales).
I'd probably answer his question and pretend like she didn't exist. If I could pick my jaw up off the ground quickly enough.
Joe could say, "well I don't know exactly, but HE (dave) does....."
Geez, Dave, where do you find these people?? I like to think of myself as pretty hard to shock, after an entire lifetime in my chair, and yet... I actually gasped aloud when I read this. I thought I'd pretty much heard it all, but nobody's EVER said that in front of me! I've certainly noticed other people with disabilities pointedly ignoring me before. (If I'm being completely honest, I might even admit to doing the same when I was younger.) But I've never heard a direct order like this one. Wow. WOW.
Dying to know the rest of the story... I have a hard time imagining what I'd say, past an initial, "ExcUSE me??"
I would hope that Joe answered in sign language - and you graciously interpreted . . . or is that disrespectful of ASL?
Seriously - whatever you said or did was perfect. After all, you were living in that moment - with all the antecedent moments before and since.
Dave, I read your post this morning but nothing that came to my mind at that time was "printable" ... How DARE this woman be so degrading to you and to her child. The pictue that came to my mind - and I'm not familiar with this vehicle or the lift or ramp it has - but the first picture that came to me was you (okay, truth be told I was kind of picturing myself in your spot) shouting cowabunga (as in the 1980s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles) and going after her.... I of course wouldn't "really" do or suggest such a thing but I have a hard time getting past my initial reaction of just how horrifying this is.
I can't imagine being in your shoes in this situation or in the shoes of the son. What disturbs me most is that if this woman is this young boy's mother, he undoubtedly has heard this 'message' from her more than once. What must that message due to his personhood, his ego, his feelings of self-worth?! especially at that age, especially from a parent. But what heartens me is his resilllience. If indeed she's his mom & if indeed she has sent this type of message before, well somehow this young man has seen past that to a much hearthier, more reasonable, mature confidence in himself and view of others and the world... As in he seemed to know that talking with you or finding out about a cool vehicle was far more 'right' than the ridiculous crap his mother had been feeding him.
I would want to respond in a way to support this young person's view of himself, relationships, other people with disabilities, the broader world...
But in reality I would probably have shouted, used some words she probably would have found offensive, and told her she'd better get it together before she hurt her son more than she already had.
I look forward to hearing how you handled it & as "anonymous" said earlier I am certain that what you did was the perfect thing.
I'm Deaf ... and personally, I laughed out loud at the suggestion that Joe sign the response and Dave interpret :-)
I'm not sure how effective it would be in this situation. But given the ways that people with disabilities get hit by so many different barriers created by non-disabled people every day ... barriers created by physical infrastructure, barriers created by lack of thinking or lack of foresight and planning ... something rebellious in me says, it's only fair that we find sneaky ways to make disability (or even feigned disability!) work out to our advantage for a change. I guess it's a way of giving myself a sense of control over the discriminatory barriers I experience as a deaf person. And also a way of turning what can be an enormously frustrating situation into something I can laugh at--a way of triumphing, for once, over a hearing person (or people or organization) acting in a discriminatory way toward me as a Deaf person. Hope that made sense.
Of course, I cannot speak for all signing Deaf people. But personally I wouldn't be offended if Joe/Dave had taken the approach of pretending Joe was Deaf. The only reason I would recommend against it is because I'm not sure the mother would have really learned anything from it, except maybe learning to assume that anyone hanging out with a disabled person who obviously isn't a parent might well be disabled too and should thus be avoided.
What I would actually do in this situation myself ... probably I would be too stunned to come up with a good response. And in the time I have read this post and subsequent comments and written this response, I haven't come up with an "ideal" response either--the response I would like to give in a fantasy world where I'm able to think quickly enough to do something genuinely helpful in reaching the mother, or at least helping the boy see that his mother is wrong in trying to teach him to avoid other disabled people.
What Amanda said. The kid is the one who matters in this situation, not the mother.
Protecting victims is much more important than telling off bigots.
I'm reading this a day late. And I can tell you my mouth would still be hanging open, my brain completely unable to make sense of what was happening in front of me.
PS Damn! That car is GANGSTA, Dave!
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