Wednesday, February 04, 2015


Is everything we see filtered through prejudice, bias, and personal history?

Is it possible just to see what's there?

These questions come from something I saw on television. And of course in writing about how people see and interpret what they see, I wonder about what I saw and how I'm interpreting it - but I can't fix that. Anyways, back to watching television.

Joe is a Weather Weenie.

That's the slang name for those people who actually watch the weather channel. This does not include those who switch over to catch the local weather, they are sensible people getting information. Weather weenies actually watch the weather channel for enjoyment. Let's just say I'm on the sensible side but I cope with Joe's peccadilloes and eccentricities. (Hi Joe!)

So we (he) was watching the weather station and I turned my head when they were doing one of those 'person on the street' interviews. The person was saying talking about how bad the snow was and how the sidewalks were slippery and dangerous. As she was speaking two people in power chairs motored by behind her. She turned and saw them and then turned back to the camera and said, "Of course, it's the people in wheelchairs that I really feel sorry for."

WTF (I am using such restraint right now because I want to write that phrase out in full but shan't.)

They motored by.


When Joe and I are out in snowy slippery weather he holds on to me for support. Well, not me exactly but my wheelchair. Several times he's remained vertical because he's had hold of the handle on my chair and used it to keep himself upright.

But she turned to see two people in wheelchairs managing just fine, if not better that people walking and seemed to see something much different, much worse, much more difficult for the poor cripples. WTFuck?? (Sorry, I couldn't stop myself.)

Can't people ever see us as disabled and just fine?

I don't want people to 'Oh, I don't see your disability' me. WhatTF does that mean? I want to be seen, as disabled, and happy, and competent, and equal? I want to be seen as disabled, using a wheelchair and getting on fine on a snowy sidewalk. Is that too much to ask?



Anonymous said...

It's funny that you would post this today. I had it in my head to write to you about traversing through snow with a wheelchair, because in the city where I live, the sidewalks are poorly-maintained and there are many people who use wheelchairs and scooters. I imagine that large chunks of my fair city are not accessible to them during these long, snowy months. I feel badly for them - that because there are only a limited number of funny little plows that clear our walks, entire swaths of town are left untended for days, sometimes. Even our downtown core is poorly-maintained. From my vehicle, I watched as a young man in a push wheelchair tried to get himself up and over a pile of snow on a corner - luckily, just as my kids were scrambling to climb out of the car and help, another man did so. But I thought about the younger one for the rest of the day and tried to fathom how he'd get up the hills and down the dips on snowy sidewalks. I didn't see how he'd be able to and yes, it made me feel badly for him. I wasn't thinking, "Oh, poor crippled dude," I was more focused on how the dude in the chair was going to get home safely. Is that wrong?

Liz McL

Anonymous said...

Sometimes people have to ignore a LOT of evidence right before their eyes so that they can comfortably maintain their prejudices about how things OUGHT to be.

I feel sorry for them. It must be such hard work to always SEE something, then have to root through their database of stereotypes and prejudices before they can UNDERSTAND.

And the interviewer could have said something like, "Well - THESE guys seem to be doing just fine - wish I had a nice sturdy base in this snow." But they're not in it to educate, only to get 'reactions.'

The same thing is happening when you're doing fine, and someone rushes up to insist on holding the door, because that's what you DO when 'crippled' appears in front of you.

Common sense isn't.


Anonymous said...

Dear Dave,

I am sorry that you felt that way. I am always glad that I am nnot in a wheelchair in winter because of the cold. It is not gratfulness for being able to walk and slide through the snow. It is gratefulness that I am able to find my way without sitting in the cold, feeling the cold frame of the wheelchair, not being able to keep my hands in my warm coat pockets.

I am glad there is the possibilty of me moving around even though I can not walk beause all the bones in my feet hurt like hell. A wheelchair and a person who pushes it are very welcome. But it seems to triple the experience of cold for me.

Maybe thats what the woman meant to say albeit a bit clumsy...


Anonymous said...

Oh no!
Sounds to me like a gratuitous put down bcos she was on camera and a couple of people using wheelchairs caught her eye.
This is how pointless, useless, debilitating prejudice is perpetuated.
I agree it matters. IT MATTERS!

wheeliecrone said...

I use a motorised wheelchair.
Everywhere I go, I see people pitying me. It is written clearly on their faces. Even as they struggle along with clearly painful feet and legs with their walker or canes. Because walking is, apparently, the only important skill. As you so succinctly put it - WTF?
Using my motorised wheelchair, I am safe and comfortable. I am not likely to fall. I can wait comfortably in line. I am okay. And I am outdoors, doing whatever I want to do, going wherever I want to go (if it is wheelchair-accessible), and living my life.

My opinion is that it is wilful ignorance that makes people all pitying about disability. Ignorance and fear. Fear that it could happen to them. Fear that they would not be able to cope.

Fear and ignorance. What a pair.

Anonymous said...

I am quite familiar with wheelchair use as I used to hang out after my young neighbour arrived home from school, until his parents came home from work. We played a lot of rummy!! But the posts here, and your post, made me wonder if there are snow tires for wheel chairs! I'd never thought about it before. Are there?
I'm hugely proud of my young friend. He is graduating with two certifications from college, and with excellent marks. The school has adapted things for him, he has physical aid when needed, and he's done wonderfully well.
He'll be out in the work force soon, an able bright personable young man who will add a great deal to this world, even though his pre-birth stroke has left problems for him to deal with. He has more abilities than disabilities, and I love this kid.
I hope you have a great day tomorrow, and that TO isn't as snowy as Welland!

Susan in Massachusetts said...

I know you already let a lot of things go. I also know that you aren't responsible for educating everyone, but it seems like you spend a lot of energy getting angry over people who probably mean no harm and are just uneducated or haven't met a lot of people who have a disability. Keep on keeping on and don't give people power by letting them ruin your day and making you angry.

Moose said...

Yes, what most people see is filtered by their own beliefs and biases. It's called perception bias: You see what you want to see based on what you already expect to see. It's why we're more likely to believe an unchecked "fact" that fits with our previous beliefs, whether or not they're accurate, and why it makes it so hard to change those hard-worn beliefs.

Society still sees the disabled as people to be pitied or, sometimes, a thing for disgust. The campaigns to treat the disabled as regular every day people often get drowned out by disability inspiration porn (the "He did it; what's your excuse?"" crap I loathe so much), which treats the disabled as objects while encouraging the non-disabled to see them as "special" instead of just people.

And when I use my mobility scooter I don't see pity, I see hate, disgust, and scorn. The belief is that if I just lost weight I wouldn't be on that thing. I'm not missing a body part so my disability isn't glaringly obvious, and it's far too easy for them to judge me by their pre-conceived notions about fat people -- and either way it defines me as a "thing" instead of a person.

Anonymous said...

Just remember, just because you can safely navigate the sidewalk in the snow doesn't mean everyone can.