Tuesday, June 02, 2015

An Afternoon at the Movies: Expected Consequences

Part 4

I realize that I left you hanging, wondering what happened, by skipping a day from the sequence of the story of our trip to the movies in Richmond. I did this because I wanted to think a little more about what I wanted to write. I also wanted to be a bit calmer so I could be more thoughtful. I give thanks to the fact that I finally realized that what I thought when angry isn't necessary what I would think when calm.

Some of you may be waiting for an ultimate confrontation or resolution.

That didn't happen.

What I wanted to write about was an overheard conversation from two people who had been in the same movie theatre, watching the same movie, where the same events occurred. Where a woman with a disability had to repeatedly use sounds, like a low and then rising moan, to call her staff to her side. I was not concerned about the moans, they didn't bother me, I was bothered by the behaviour of the staff.

But the people whose conversation I overheard didn't notice the staff, didn't notice that the moans had meaning, they only noticed the noise.

One: "Those people shouldn't be allowed in movie theatres, it costs a lot of money to go to a movie and to have it ruined by that G*d damned noise is f*cking ridiculous."

Other: "I agree! They were better off when they were put away."

The conversation sickened me.

Clearly these are people who don't have a great degree of tolerance for people with disabilities. I'm betting if a child was in the movies they may complain that the child was noisy but they wouldn't suggest locking children away. The fact that the idea of institutionalization is still a quick option for those frustrated by the behaviour of someone with a disability tells me that community living and inclusion are still fragile social ideas.

What makes this horrific to me is that those staff, and their behaviour, their lack of support for a woman who didn't want to sit at the end of a row, alone, fuelled the latent bigotry and bias of members of the audience. These were two, were there more? Probably.

Our job isn't to just support people with disabilities as they live their lives in the community, our job is also to support the concept, the radical idea, that people with disabilities belong in the community. How we do our jobs publicly will either enhance the concept of civil liberties and freedoms for people with disabilities or it will detract from the idea that people with disabilities are a people deserving of civil liberties.

It's not fair.

But it's the way it is.

A poorly supported woman was blamed for her poor support.

And the suggestion that she be locked away, forever, is terrifying.

Damage was done.

Serious damage.

All because someone made a decision that a woman with a disability wasn't worth sitting with, sitting beside. All because someone valued her so little that her voice, yes she had a voice, wasn't worth listening to.

A message to all staff and support people, you are supporting people with disabilities in the community and therefore you are supporting the concept of community living - never forget that your job is bigger than you thought, you are serving and individual and the cause of freedom at the same time. 


Anonymous said...

What I don't think "staff" understand is that leaving clients to their own coping devices while pursuing their own interests (whether it's a game, watching a movie or whatever) is tantamount to theft. If they are being paid to support an individual, any distraction from that work means they are taking "paid time off." I have seen this in malls where staff let clients "tag along" while they do their own personal shopping, in restaurants where 2 staff meet and are engaged in animated conversation while the people they support are absorbed in eating fries and are generally ignored and in video rental stores where staff goes early on a Friday to get the best movies to take home, while the clients wander aimlessly around the store (yes, my daughter worked at Blockbuster and began to notice the regulars!). Using client time to engage in your own pursuits is theft!! Let's call a spade a freaking shovel!

Anonymous said...

One: "Those people ..."

Other: "I agree! They ..."

Disabled people aren't human - they are 'other.' They are 'them.'

These speakers would probably have more sense than to use those words (whether they thought them or not) about people of color - because that would be racist, wouldn't it?

It IS sickening. I hope you reported the staff behavior to the appropriate managers of the 'caretakers' who don't.

Anonymous said...

Oh Dave your writing is so profound about a truth that is so obvious and yet so obscure until you point it out.
I'm cutting and pasting your words into a training presentation (of course referencing your blog as the origin) right now.

Kristine said...

You sure know how to tell a story... This isn't what I was expecting in part four at all! But with all the lead-in, it's an even bigger punch in the gut. Makes me sick on so many levels. The (presumably unintended) impact that an individual's actions can have on public opinions. How easily one can go from "movie theater annoyance" to "should be locked up." How smoothly people can strip away their own humanity, and rob another of theirs....

With all this drama happening in the theater, did you get to pay attention at all to the actual movie?

clairesmum said...

I am angry at the staff for numerous reasons. In addition to the fact that their actions caused suffering for the woman they 'served', the money to pay them most likely came from government funds and those funds come from tax dollars of people who are working. ( I'm in the states, but presume government funds in Canada arise from the same basic sources.) I hate to see my money wasted, or used to do harm. Idealistic, I know.
If I had a magic wand I think I'd use it to arrange for Dave to do a training at the agency where these 2 staff are employed, and then some sort of restorative justice process for the woman whose staff caused harm to her and for her.

Anonymous said...

Although I agree totally with the caretaker roles, and the lack of proper attention and not meeting needs, I admit, I too do get frustrated when I attend an event that I paid for, or which is a treat for me, and it is constantly interrupted by someone not able to contain their enthusiasm. It doesn't matter if it is someone with a disability, someone talking, a young child at an inappropriate aged event, a phone user or a constant candy wrapper attacker. There are "social norms", which are based on respect for each other.

At Christmas I was taken as a gift to a concert. It was not a sing-a-long concert, nor a fund-raiser for those with disabilities. It was a high end Christmas concert. I really looked forward to sharing this with my friend. About 5 rows back was someone with a disability was expressing themselves loudly. Perhaps the music was moving, or familiar, or just be enjoyed, but oh, their participation was unwelcomed. Not only did it disrupt me, but probably about 100 people in the radius. Honestly, it ruined at least 80% of the event for me. I can understand being ticked at the thought that the needs of one outweigh the needs of many, for I was ticked. Having a disability myself, it took great efforts to attend the concert.

At times we are "forced" tolerated it, because one is to feel sorry for them. Yet, inclusion doesn't just mean tolerating. I'm sure you don't want to be tolerated, or pitied, you want to be able to be included. Me too. I know our local theater has movies that are for "strollers and...". These showings, which are current films, are run with the idea those in attendance will be surrounded by noise, like crying babies, etc. To me that includes those who cannot contain their enthusiasm and vocalize "inappropriately". No locking away, no anger, but allowing all to enjoy the event/movie in a manner that is natural for them. Just like the woman vocalized and communicated that she did not want to be alone, others have the right to express their wants (just not rudely or disrespectfully).

Few have the understanding and tolerance you have Dave. Thanks for calling us on stuff.

Anonymous said...

"interesting" point of view...
Tell me if you had a medical need due to your own disability which ended up requiring a first responder thus disrupting the concert would you have the same point of view?
The woman in question was being inappropriately abandoned within service delivery by staff who were on duty to support her needs. Presumably they had received training on how to suport her and how she expresses herself.
therefore her communications should have been anticipated or at a minimum appropriately responded to.
I think it's "interesting" that a person with a disability is mirroring the same intollerance that we all to often experience in living our lives... best be careful not to become the very thing that harms yourself and your community.

Belinda said...

Wow, Dave, well put and written.

Anonymous said...

Dave, I have a physical impairment. Would you mind if I included this blog post in a list of suggested unnecessary but suggested reading for PA's who're interested in thinking critically about their role supporting me? I would copy paste the entire blog and put the link at the bottom, print it out and put it in the book of useful things. It'd be along with some Stella Young, some Harriet McBryde Johnson, some stuff I wrote myself etc.

Dave Hingsburger said...

Of course Anon above, I'm beyond honoured to be in that company!!