I'd never been the the 'People in Motion' show so when the doors opened, I was quite excited. Joe and I have never had to be the first in, the first off, the first past the post. We are quite willing to wait until the crowd dies down and then we make our entrance. We got in and were greeted by non-disabled people handing out stuff and telling us about a survey we can fill out when we leave.
Maybe it's me but with all the push for people with disabilities having employment opportunities, I wasn't sure why disabled people weren't the greeters at Canada's largest show on disabilities. But never mind.
No, I take back that never mind.
From booth to booth, full of product to be sold to disabled people, that I went to and spoke with people, I invariably was speaking to non disabled people who would never have actually used the product they were selling. Oh, they probably, in the case of wheelchairs, had a 'sensitivity training' where they rode around in the products, but we all agree that a) that's such a patronizing approach to disability awareness training that furthers hate more than it does understanding and b) five minutes in a chair facing barriers teaches you only about frustration not about the ability you will develop to find solutions and options. But, besides all that, where were the disabled people employed by companies that serve disabled people?
By the end, in fact, I'd met one. He was selling a cool product for adapting a wheelchair from manual to power. Because he was disabled, because he uses the product all the time, he was able to answer questions, informatively, intuitively knowing the information I'd want and two, he was passionate about the product because it changed his life. This guy was selling a product from a deeply personal connection with it. Cool strategy for a company, n'est pas?
I did meet other disabled people at booths there. The guy at the Abilities Magazine (which I hope you subscribe to and support) was great to talk to and they had this awesome campaign that was really disability positive and disability 'in your face' ... the only real booth that used identity in such a incredibly powerful and positive way. I met a great group at Variety Village who were able to answer my questions about their gym and there facility. Also a great discussion with people with disabilities at a booth I can't remember, but who had a radio station and were training people with disabilities in broadcasting. But all the groups that had people there were non-profit types, the for profit people selling vans and trucks and wheelchairs and walkers and grab bars, there was only the one.
I keep getting in trouble for making comparisons, but I have to .. can you imagine 'Canada's largest show for women and products and services for women' having male greeters, having men at all the booths where products were sold and women's participation found only at non-profit sector booths. I'm not sure many women would attend and if they did, that they would stay.
I found myself, early on, before I had noticed that disabled people attended but didn't work the show, talking to a guy in a wheelchair at a wheelchair booth. He was demonstrating, quite ably, how the chair worked. Then I made a comment, I won't repeat here, that I would have only said to another disabled person, and he looked at me oddly. I felt embarrassed but could have predicted that he'd do what he did, he stood up. Oh, my.
So, I decided to have fun.
I'll tell you what happened next tomorrow.
So discouraging. So insensitive. So STUPID.
Imagine a show with products for black people, staffed entirely by condescending redheads.
Imagine a show for...
Well I was about to say men, staffed entirely by women, but you know that happens all the time.
What you are describing is a show for zookepers. How to take care of 'them.'
It's sickening, and you should write the companies present about how they not only should have disabled people staffing their dumb booths, but working at their incredibly dumber companies. And not just as product testers. As designers and ad people and sales people and manufacturers.
Sorry. This came after a weekend in which all my limitations jumped at me, including the one that kept me from singing in church because they don't allow any vehicles on the university campus today - and the chapel is INACCESSIBLE unless they let me drive there and park near it.
I can't wait for your next post.
No idea if you read comments this far back, but I'll try anyway.
You comment a lot (I've only read the posts between this one and today, and learned a LOT!) about "why no disabled people" in certain places and especially in companies/services aimed at disabled persons.
You don't know whether there are people with disabilities there.
You only know that there are no people who appear to have visible disabilities there.
When I see someone with a crutches or a wheelchair I smile at them because I think "hey, you too!"
That look is not always returned.
And barely ever in the winter.
More often in spring and summer.
It's not that odd if you think about it. In the winter, I wear long trousers. Spring, summer, early fall, I wear mainly short trousers, skirts, and dresses.
My prosthetic leg isn't very visible when I walk.
There are people I've known for years who are surprised when I tell them that my left arm doesn't work. Mainly because only the wrist and fingers don't work and I can do a lot through elbow and shoulder.
When people ask me if I'm able to drive a car, my response is typically "no, my eyes are so bad I'm barely allowed to cycle fast!"
And that's not even taking into account autism and a couple other things like that, that aren't readily apparent.
Maybe I'll be sitting down one day and you'll come by. And you'll write a blog about this "millennial" who tried to hinder your journey by sticking out her knee.
I'll tell you now: Sorry. It does look that way, I know. I get the looks every time when someone needs to pass before me, or when I'm at the movies or in a bus and the person before me looks back angry that I'm poking them.
But I can't help that I am 6 foot talk and that the thigh of my prosthetic leg is 5 inches longer than that of my healthy leg.
Huh. I forgot to emphasize that I think your blog is terrific outside of the (in)visible disability thing.
A lot of things I never really saw as a bad or undeserving thing, you call bad and unwarranted.
Like how I feel bad about inconveniencing people by asking them to step aside whereas really, public space and I'm also a member of public!
Asking businesses for help or accommodation when I'm a paying customer.
That movie seats in a wheelchair are terrible and that that's not right.
But also that I'm guilty of 'assimilation' myself. When I try to say something intelligent when first meeting someone, especially if I'm with a friend/family, so that I'm not assumed to have an intellectual disability. You know, reference the newspaper. Say something about how the costs of two products compare.
If I'm assumed to have an intellectual disability, that's hasty on the assumers part, but it's hardly an accusation.
It's not an accusation. Because there isn't anything wrong with having such a disability.
When I brag about my 'independence', when I assure fellow shoppers and store clerks that I don't need their help and that I'm not an inconvenience, am I not saying "but those other people, who do need help, are"?
You're the first one to open my eyes to this. I first came across your blog in late May/early June and I've already ploughed through three years of posts. Thank you for writing.
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