Wednesday, April 19, 2017

A Third Option

We arrived at the airport and I pushed myself to the check in area. There I was spotted by a woman, an employee, who came over to ask me if I needed to go to special services to get me to the gate, then she looked at Joe and said, "Or, will you be taking him?" I said, archly, "There is a third option, I can take myself there." She looked flustered and trying not to slip into annoyance, "I suppose."

Now, I'm not quibbling with her pointing out where special services was, I know where it is, I'm a frequent flyer, but many wouldn't. I was just annoyed that my ability to get myself where I was going was simply discounted as an option. I'm disabled. I must need help. That is the natural order of things.

Now, there isn't anything wrong with needing help or asking for help. What's wrong is the assumption that, of course you need it. It would only have taken her a few more words to make the interaction respectful rather than disrespectful.

The option of independence.

The idea of self reliance.

The possibility of competence.

The lowering of expectations for people with disabilities is a killer. It kills the will to try. It kills the push to push. It kills the desire to dig deeper wells.

More, there is a real need to please those who need to be pleased. Her annoyance, while hidden as well as she could. was real.

Later that same day Joe and I were going out a door. A clerk who worked there dashed to the door saying that they'd hold the door for us. Joe was already through and holding the door. I said, "It's okay, we've got this."

We heard a loud exasperated sigh, then, "You mean I'm not needed?" It was said as a joke. But it wasn't a joke.

I see so many people with intellectual disabilities who bow under the weight of others needs to be needed. I see so many who live limited lives because of limitations set by others. Tragic.

Meaning well isn't okay if doing harm is the result.

When I say, "I've got this."

Trust me.

I do.


Unknown said...

Oh, my goodness...I could not agree with you more. Do NOT make assumptions about what anyone, disabled or not, can or can't do. Treat people, ALL people, with dignity and respect.
I have been out for lunch with friends who have disabilities and had the server ask ME what they would like to eat. I just look at them like they are crazy and ask, "How the heck would *I* know???"
Happily though, I have also seen the opposite. Many years ago, I took a friend who has a significant intellectual disability, and is non-verbal, to open a bank account, and the lady we dealt with spoke directly to her, showed her and explained to her the options available, and treated her like she treated every other customer. It was a wonderful experience, especially because back then (this was probably the mid 1990's) it was SO rare. Most adults with intellectual disabilities were either still living (if you can call it that) in institutional settings and those who weren't were still facing massive struggles with acceptance within their communities.

Unknown said...

"Meaning well isnt ok if doing harm is the result".. I so wish I could have that saying tatooed across my face because nobody in my life understands this simple and really important fact.