Saturday, November 09, 2019

Moving Forward

It was the morning after the first snowfall of the year. Much more fell that we expected and, as we were up early getting ready for me to go to work, the plows had not yet been through. We took a second to turn on the television to get the Toronto, where my office is, weather report. We found the station and then listened as a poor reporter stood out in the freezing cold talking about the snow and ice.

The reporter was down somewhere near Union station and you could see pedestrians quickly scooting by. Then a man entered the screen to her right and walked off screen to her left. He never looked at her, or the camera, he was solely focused on moving forward.

He had Down Syndrome.

He was alone.

He was going somewhere.

I've always thought that disabled people by the very nature of disability, ableism and disphobia live our lives as an act of open revolt. The very fact that we are shopping, and going to movies, and going to work, and going about our business instead of plummeting from bridges and over-passes gives the lie to the idea that disability is a life unworth living.

So there he was.

Walking across the screen like an advertisement for 'Not Dead Yet' he simply was.

When I write things like this, people often comment that his triumph is really our own, as parents and teachers and support workers. We so want the taste of victory to be our own. But no one can understand what it is to be him there, except, of course, him there. No one can know the stares he faces, the names he's called, the spaces closed to him.

We do what we do.

But it's his walk.

And he made it, in the very early morning of the first day of ice and snow.

He will arrive at his destination with freedom in his wake.


Girl on wheels said...

I became disabled in my 20s, and at first I hated how people would stare and point. It made me not want to leave the house. Fast forward 7 years and a new shiny wheelchair, and now I’m moving too fast to notice the staring and the pointing. But I see the smiles, and I know that those people will remember seeing me, remember seeing my independence (and how much fun I looked like I was having, my new chair can really go). I am so grateful to those who came before me, to those who put up with so many more stares, and pointing fingers and the name calling because they gave me those smiles. Just as my brazenly disabled presence now will mean more positive reactions for the next generation of disabled people. I will admit that some days I’m just not up for the stares and pointing, and I’m lucky that I can hide at home when I feel like that. But I feel like that so much less now, than I did then, and who knows where I’ll be in another seven years.

Nancy said...

Always love your insights since I fisr heard you speak some 14 years ago at World Down Syndrome Conference in Vancouver. Love this post too. I'm the mom to a 14 y o who happens to have Down syndrome. She is not here to make anyone e feel good about themselves. She is my daughter and her own person. I try to leave it at that and hope the rest of the world can do so too as she goes about making her way in life.