Sunday, May 20, 2018

Understanding and Accountability

I keep getting told that it's "not prejudice."

I keep getting that patient voice explaining to me that prejudice as a motivating factor is just in my mind.

I keep having explained to me that, essentially, there is no such thing as prejudice against people with disabilities.

After shopping for groceries in my local store, I once again found that the only two aisles that are wheelchair accessible have signs up stating that they take customers with less than 12 items. I have had this discussion with the store managers and supervisors several times. They all claim to understand.

This is crucial.

They all claim to understand.

They all claim to see my point.

This is equally crucial ...

... they all claim that they will do something about it.

So, after being away for a couple of weeks we went grocery shopping yesterday. It was nice to do something so entirely normal and homey. But when we went to pay for the groceries, we encountered the same problem. We had a bunch of groceries, WAY more than 12 items and the two accessible cashiers were designated for those with very few items. We went to one of them anyway and were immediately shooed away by the cashier.

I started making some noise asking where the hell I was supposed to pay. One of the senior staff came over quickly to take down the 12 item sign so we could go through. And there's where the clash occurred. We've spoken before, she and I, several times. I was fed up and tired. I challenged her and the store about blatant prejudice against disabled people as welcome customers.

"I'm sorry you feel that way," she said before beginning to explain that this was my perception but not fact. She was snippy and curt.

Not fact.

No accessible lane for wheelchair users to pay for purchases.

No sense of respect for my frustration.

AND

They knew.

I've talked to them before.

And they claim to understand.

So if they understand they are purposely ignoring the situation and have committed to a path of doing nothing and making no change.

EVEN THOUGH, BY THEIR OWN WORDS THEY UNDERSTAND.

Well that's it for me.

Joe readily agrees.

We are shopping somewhere else.

I had thought that I could bring about change.

I can't.

Because the understand but don't.

And that's sheer bigotry and prejudice.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Where He Is Free

Home.

Our flight home. Our waiting rental car. All went as they were supposed to. The traffic was heavy because of the long weekend but we managed to survive it all and arrive home. We came in and immediately felt embraced. We knew that this space was ours and that it was tailored to our taste.

As I was rolling through the door I remembered speaking to a man with a similar disability to the one I have. I remember him speaking of living in a nursing home because of a lack of access to an accessible living space and the supports that he needed to live freely. He was a few years younger than me. He had about him a resignation to his life that came from exhaustion from fighting for so many years, he wasn't resigned from the start he told me but his dream of a home, a place of his own, had slowly slipped from him.

He said that he once hated where he lived, but that had led to a deep bitterness which took away all joy. "This," he said, putting his hand on his chest, over his heart, "will always be free even if I never am." I got teary at that point and he made an apology that I brushed away. I told him I needed to be reminded.

That people still yearn to be free.

That people still wait for a just life and a fair shot.

That people live in captivity jailed, not by bars, but by indifference.

I come into my home, from a lengthy trip on the road, of two weeks, and I feel a warmth in my gut at coming through the door.

Two weeks.

Just two weeks.

And he, for years and years, is still away from his home - the one he has in his mind.

We are so not done yet.

Not. Nearly. Done.

Friday, May 18, 2018

Travel - Disability - Making it Work

Okay, we fly home tomorrow. As you read this we will be on a plane flying towards Canada. One we land it's about an hours drive home, depending on traffic, and then we sail in to the long weekend. We're tired from the trip but as always grateful to have had the experiences we've had. We found that our past experiences of travelling with the wheelchair led to an error free experience (but we haven't flown yet) in terms of the hotels and venues where we stayed and worked. Planning works.

Being disabled makes things more complex, not more difficult, but more complex. It takes much more thought and much more attention to detail and doing a lot more double checking. This time every hotel we arrived at had an accessible room waiting, every place we went to see, visit or shop at was barrier free. This meant that we had to stay at particular hotels and avoid some touristy stops ... but we used the world that we could both easily move around in.

All of this made the disability become almost irrelevant, it was still there but it didn't mean what it can mean in places and spaces that are determinedly inaccessible. My disability, like my personality, changes in relationship to the environment I'm in and the welcome I get. I have enough, just enough, control to manage that in certain ways.

I choose an airline that I find welcoming to me as a disabled traveler.

I choose a hotel brand that offers specific ADA assistance.

I use Google to help me determine architectural welcome.

This doesn't always work, but this trip, it did. I was able to push myself around everywhere we went, I was able to access all that I wanted to access. Joe and I were able to focus on being together and enjoying the time we had to enjoy. It was a relief.

I know I am cursing our trip tomorrow by writing this now, but I wanted to just say, as we are in our last hotel of 8 that it has been smooth sailing.

So we go into tomorrow and the travel home hopefully. We go into the rest of the lecture season determined to be just as careful and make our experience of travel be one that allows us to enjoy the work, the people and our surroundings.

Tune in tomorrow to see if it ends as it began.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

23 Times

"Hey!" said a passerby with disgust, "Don't do that!! It's disgusting."

Now I don't happen to believe that this was said to the man with an intellectual disability because of his disability, I firmly believe it was because of his behaviour. He had been walking alongside his staff in a mall when he leaded over and spat a huge gob onto the floor. The fellow who protested was clearly upset about this. I, took found it, to say the least, off putting.

The staff said, "It's his right."

The passerby said with surprise mixed with anger, "His right?"

The staff nodded in as haughty a manner as possible. I'm sure she was thinking that she was advocating with the nasty public.

Now, I don't know about you but I don't think we all have 'the right' to spit on floors in stores, restaurants and malls. And if, by chance we do, we shouldn't freaking do it anyway.

I have been fully engaged in the fight for people with disabilities to have full adult rights, this is not what I envisioned. Not at all. In fact, I think this is neglectful of his right to learn behaviours that are not gut-wrenchingly awful. Spitting on the floor in a mall or anywhere like that really bothers me, when anyone does it. But then in all of my 65 years, I've not seen someone do it before so there must be some unwritten code guiding us all to gob where gobbing is acceptable. It seems simple.

Rights should not be trivialized.

Rights should not be used as an excuse to provide service that is essentially neglectful.

The look on the faces of everyone around was not, um, positive. The look on the face of the man who'd spat on the floor was triumphant, he knew what he did was wrong and he's got his staff as his pass-key to do whatever the hell he wants.

Rights should not be trivialized.

I'd like that staff to write that on the blackboard 23 times.


Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Statuary

Ruby is a big fan of the television show called, I think, "Charmed." While we were here in Los Angeles she asked if we could go and get a picture of the house from the show. On Sunday, after prompting from Ruby, we checked and found it wasn't too long of a drive from our hotel. We ended up driving on both Sunset Boulevard and Ventura Highway along the way.

The house was easy to spot, there were tourists, like us, outside the house taking photos, all of them, by their level of excitement, real fans of the show. We know nothing of the series but appreciated the fun everyone was having and we were enjoying fulfilling a desperate request which told us we HAD to see the house. It was easier for me to take the photo from the car, rather than get out, because of how the house was situated on a hill, the shots were easy to take.

We were the last there when Joe got into the car to sit with me and check the photos. Another car pulled up and a young gay couple got out and came over to the house. They were young, clearly in love, and having a wonderful time. They were having difficulty getting into a position where they could both be in a selfie shot. I suggested to Joe he hop out and offer to take the photo.

He did and they immediately handed over the camera to him. Then they went and stood by the wall that came from the end of the lawn to the sidewalk, They stood close, but did not touch. Inside my head I was screaming, "Put your arms around each other!!" But they didn't. They were happy with the photo though and thank Joe and me, when they noticed me in the car.

My heart broke just a little bit.

Joe and I have pictures of ourselves from when we were that age. We stand beside each other looking like accidental friends, looking like Joe would walk off to the left and me to the right, looking like we were statuary without hearts that beat quickly in each other's presence. I hate those pictures. I don't look at them, ever. I can't bear them.

Because they aren't pictures of us, they are pictures of fear, and of self preservation and of deep, deep caution. These two young men stood like that. Close to each other, but not touching, not playful, not young and in love. Statuary. And I understand their caution, I understand their wariness.

I am constantly told that things are better now for gay people.

And maybe they are.

But maybe they aren't.

Monday, May 14, 2018

A Mother's Day Gift

Okay Google suggested a mall for us to go to on Sunday for a bit of a stroll. The weather here has been grey and drizzling for most of the weekend, clearing up yesterday afternoon in time to let us know that the work week would be beautiful. We arrived, parked and headed in. The place was packed. After a bit of pushing up and down long ramps that connected the various parts of the mall we decided to go for lunch.

The food court was packed. In fact we only got seats because a young family, seeing me looking around, got up and gave us their table. I knew they were doing this for me, a nice gesture to the man int he wheelchair, but sometimes I'll take the advantage. We tucked into the table then tucked into our meals and chatted about the day.

When we were done the place was still hopping, lots of mothers with their kids, lots of laughing, it was a nice atmosphere. Joe got up to put our tray away and appeared beside me was a mother and her daughter, who may have been 14, and whose shyness was clearly evident. They were carrying trays and I was about to offer the table when mom's finger shot out shushing me. Mother's probably never lose that skill.

I waited for a second when her daughter gathered up her courage and said to me, "Are you finished with the table," it sounded practiced but it also sounded like a voice that was growing right along with her. I told her that the table would be free and yes of course they could have it. Her face burst into a big smile and said thank you.

I don't think that she was smiling as much because of the table itself but that she had managed to push through her shyness and ask for it. I saw mom watching her with incredible pride.

Who knows what the back story is and maybe it matters less than the fact that this mom, right now, is teaching her daughter to speak up, to speak out, to use her voice. I glanced back at them and I saw mom with her hand over her daughters and leaned in, speaking to her. I don't know what she was saying but I'm guessing 'proud' was one of the words.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Mothers

I know a mother who kept her baby girl. Everyone told her to 'put her with her own kind' ... her response was always the same, 'but that's where she already is.' She spent her life fighting for her daughter's right to adulthood and then she had to, with great difficulty, let her child go into that adulthood. She watched her make good decision and bad ones too. But she knew that in order to gain her daughter's trust she had to give hers first.

I know a mother who lost her husband when she refused to let him throw her boy out into the streets. She believed that her child was sinful, that his gay nature was a punishment, that the heart he loved with was defective. But she believed even more that a mother loves her child, that a mother doesn't throw a 16 year old boy out into the street. She never reconciled with her husband and due to his pressure, she was expelled from her church. She attended her son's wedding, the only one of the family that did so.

I know a mother who adopted a child with a serious illness. She was warned about the emotional cost of loving a child that will die early in childhood, she was warned about getting too involved, she was warned away from the child and the commitment and coming hurt. She simply said, 'a baby needs to be loved, needs to have a home, I am prepared to live and love until there is loss.' Her baby lived years and years past expectations.

I know a mother who was brought up in an abusive home. I know the years she put into therapy, her battle against the rages that would over take her, the violence of her temper that would take away her sense of proportion. I know what a big decision it was for her to have a child. She worried that she would do what was done to her, she worried that she would visit terror on the child. Every day she fought for control, every day. Her daughter remarks, now that she is a mother herself, that she doesn't know how her mother brought her up without ever once raising her voice.


Happy Mother's Day