Sunday, August 27, 2017

What He Called Me

I was rolling to the gym. I had rolled from the parked car over rough pavement, up the curb and uphill to the entrance and was now easily pushing over to the gym. I was thinking about my workout, deciding if I wanted to try for a personal best on the armergometer or if I wanted to focus on weights. Joe had gone on ahead to check in for swimming so I was enjoying mentally preparing for the next hour and a half.

Suddenly a voice, directed my way, "Can I help?" A man is veering towards me from his wife and child.

I am startled, pulled out of my thoughts, and said, "With what?" I couldn't imagine why he was asking me. I was pushing quickly, I clearly knew where I was going, I was making my way, just like he was. I saw that my question, not asked with hostility had upset him, which was not my goal, but it all happened so quickly. So, I said "Thanks anyway." He smiled but wasn't mollified.

When I got to the gym I was telling some people about it and I said, "Here I thought that I cut the figure of an independent man and instead all that he could see was a cripple. A cripple who would always need help from others." Again I could see that I'd upset people. They didn't like the word 'cripple' and I could see they didn't think I should speak that way about myself. One said, "At lease he didn't call you a cripple." I said, "Oh yes he did, you can call someone a name by how you behave toward them."

It is entirely possible to call a woman a 'b-word' by the tone you use.

It is entirely possible to call someone the 'n-word' by the attitude you adopt.

It is entirely possible to call someone the 'r-word' by the ease with which you step up the hierarchy.

So yeah, he called me a 'cripple' or he related to me as a 'cripple' in exactly the way that non-disabled people use the word. I can use whatever word I want, I can tell the story from my own perspective, I can relate to my disability, my way.

I don't think anyone really got it.

People feel good that they don't say certain words, and to that I say, it's time to up your game. How about eliminating hate from words and discrimination from behaviour?

Now there's a challenge.

Still don't know what the hell help he though this particular cripple needed.


L said...

I've had people come up to me while I was waiting for a red light to turn green at a pedestrian crossing and ask if I needed help. With what? I've pressed the button, I'm sitting here patiently or impatiently in my power wheelchair, I'm all good.

I've also had people ask me if I needed help

a) while I was going down the footpath in my power wheelchair

b) while my powerchair was stationary so I could look at my smart phone

c) while I was waiting at the train station for a train.

It often scares me, because the "Do you want help" people will often touch you without asking, which is bad if you have chronic pain or PTSD (both of which I have.)

Also maybe 10% of the time the "Do you want help" people will get aggressive/hostile/threatening if you tell them no, you're fine.

clairesmum said...

He needed help - with his ATTITUDE!

Namaste said...

It was his ego that needed help.

Unknown said...

Unfortunately, ableism makes a lot of people without disabilities feel good about themselves and they don't like to think about their motivation. The way I look at it, if someone wants my help, they'll ask. Now, obviously, there are circumstances in which I'm going to ask if I can help, or just jump in and help... if someone has fallen or is injured, if they've dropped something, if they have their hands full and are obviously struggling to get something or open a door, of there's been a car accident... but these circumstances apply to everyone, not just to people with visible disabilities. If I do ask someone if they need my help and they say no, I'm not offended. Why would I be? How does them not needing or wanting my help hurt me? It's not about what would make me feel good about myself (superior) it's about the other person. I'm not better for giving unsolicited "help", and they're not rude or having a shitty attitude if they don't want my "help".