Saturday, July 20, 2019


I sat down the other day to write a post, but I just couldn't bring myself to it. This is pointing to a problem I'm having with writing this blog.

Here's what happened that I was going to write about.

We were off the plane, home again in Toronto, and on to get the rental car that would take us home. To get to the rental car I need to get up a long, carpeted, ramp. What I typically do is get near the moving sidewalk and when ready, grab it. It pulls my right arm and with my left I push my right tire with my right arm. It's a bit of a dance of dexterity but I know how to do it and even enjoy doing it.

I was riding/pushing up the ramp when a woman came careening at me and grabbed the back of my chair before Joe could intervene. I lost control of what I was doing, my right arm nearly got pulled out of it's socket and I'm hurting. She kept, against our protests, insisting on pushing me and she simply wouldn't let go. It's getting a bit loud and now I'm the center of everyone's attention. In situations like this no one gets why I'm refusing help. Everyone assumes I'm an asshole.

Finally we got her to let go saying, (say it with me) "I was just trying to help." Then, before I could answer she continued, "I saw you struggling and just wanted to ease that." At that point, I gave up, I hadn't been struggling, that means she can't see me, she sees what she wants to see disability being the Rorschach test for how people see difference.

But I couldn't write this because, um, haven't I told this story a thousand times before?

Isn't everyone tired of hearing me go on about it?

You see it's the sameness of the experiences that I have as a disabled person that weigh me down, much moreso than an individual incident. I can predict this is going to happen several times a week.

Given the sameness of the experience, how do I write this in a way that's new for you. Every single day that there hasn't been a blog written, there was a blog to write - but I don't want to bore you.

So, I'm struggling.


ABEhrhardt said...

NOT tired of hearing that you KEEP having to deal with the problem.

I don't understand why she wouldn't stop. You told her to.

You should have also told her how much she hurt you. She did. Everyone watching and listening needed to learn that her 'good intentions' damaged someone who is disabled; maybe some of them would learn not to interfere.

You will have to repeat your teaching until it isn't necessary any more, because people have opened their eyes and their minds to LISTEN and ASK FIRST.

I now speak up even when I'm uncomfortable - you taught me that. It took a lot of repetitions for me to understand what you meant.

Belinda said...

As a fellow blogger--maybe it's the relentless sameness of the stories that is the story. We are told to write what we know. New readers show up all the time and someone may need to hear today's story. We old readers are still here because it's worth it! I'm trying to find the courage to write what God shows me and leave the audience to him. I may bore some people to desperation with my topics and others just won't understand, or they may think I need to lighten up. But all I have to offer is me and my world, and every now and then someone surprises me by saying they love to read what I write and that makes my day.


Unknown said...
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Lili said...

I am a Facebook refusenik, so your regular posts are like water for this thirsty reader, and the recent drought has been a bit difficult for me- I miss you! I would not worry about frequently relating similar experiences. These stories aren't new to me, but I expect you have people who don't read regularly arriving on this blog every day. I also think it's useful to be reminded of how often you have to deal with situations like this. If you're worried that it's repetitive or boring for the reader- we're only experiencing the tiniest fraction of what it's like with living it every day, and IMO it brings your message home in a way that is more real. You don't deal with new problems all the time, so why not be real and honest about dealing with the same old crud over and over?

Girl on wheels said...

I actually think that the amount of times you’ve written about experiences like this one just reinforces your message. I know that I receive unwanted help an awful lot, I expect that a lot of disabled people do. And I know that when I tell ablebodied friends and family about experiences like this one, often they rush in with “but they were just trying to help”. It wasn’t until I told them about the sheer volume of unwanted help, unwanted touches, patronising words and tones, that they finally saw the ableism that I live with. People need to understand that we don’t need their help, that they can physically hurt us when they “help”. And I know I’ve used your blog as a resource to explain some of the experiences I’ve had, where I just haven’t had the words to explain the anger or shock or shame I’ve been left with after someone touched me without my consent because they thought they were helping me.

painting with fire said...

I don't mind the repetition - you have to deal with these appalling situations time and time again - it's good to share them and remind all of us! And as others have said - I miss you when you write less often and am glad to read all of your posts!

Hope your shoulder isn't too badly injured - her foolish "help" sounds awful!

Glee said...

Keep going please Dave. I reference your blog very often. It is an insightful history of ableism at the very least and a fabulous educational blog for the ablebods at the best. The repetition in itself is very very telling about the insidious and ubiquitous ableism that runs rife in the world.

Andrea Shettle, MSW said...

There is a person I follow in Twitter, @MrEugeneGrant, who is a little person. And he frequently chronicles the latest incident in which some random stranger in the street, either blatantly or "covertly" (except not successfully covert since they're still pretty obvious about it), take his picture or film him. Sometimes they just do it, while mocking him to their friends. Other times they cheerfully ask to take his picture with the clear expectation that of course he'll be perfectly happy. Then they turn hostile if he dares make clear that he doesn't appreciate their intrusiveness. In other words, all kind of similar to your many experiences, except that instead of intrusively trying to physically force their concept of assistance on him, they are trying to force him to be compliant with their filming him or taking a picture.

The point I'm trying to make (albeit at length) is that, if you were to pull together all of his many many many tweets describing the latest incident, it might seem repetitive. And yet in a sense it isn't repetitive. Partly this is because most incidents involve a stranger unique to all the other strangers, which means each incident plays out in a somewhat different way. And this is also because the real underlying message is that these events are so incredibly pervasive in his life. By reading his many many stories, it is easy to see how overwhelming and exhausting it must be to deal with all this unwanted attention day in and day out. Reading your many blog posts about people forcing unwanted/unneeded "assistance" on you is a similar experience: The point isn't simply that the same thing keeps happening again and again. The point is that it permeates your lived experience on a daily basis in a way that becomes wearying.