Everyone is upset this week because in Tampa Florida a deputy dumped Brain out of his wheelchair to “check if he was disabled.” Only it was caught on video and now it has made the news cycle: oh no, throwing someone out of a wheelchair…how cruel. Video here.
Is it cruel. Yes. But it also makes good TV. Here is just a selection of other actions against people with disabilities this week which didn’t make the national/international news cycle, and I didn’t even use a news sifter or server, just various disability blogs:
Do you find it interesting that someone tipped out of their chair by the police is "indefensible" while in The London Times, the columnist Rod Little stated:
"Next time you see a young person in a wheelchair, tip it over and drag the occupant to the nearest job centre, lecturing him or her all the while on the dignity of labour."
Or while Brenda Orr burned to death in her own bed AFTER calling 911 and given them her address and being put on hold. The 911 worker did not dispatch services for over two minutes (this was the second time Brenda had called) - the worker put that caller "won't get out of the house" when Brenda was a severely disabled individual with MS whose BED was on fire and though she repeatedly called 911 (it seems it was about 5 minutes from when she first called until 911 sent for assistance) could not get a quick reponse and died, 'Orr's body was found at the side of the bed in a kneeling position by firefighters.'
In Cleveland last week, three 12 year old students, two boys and a girl beat a student because.....he had cerebral palsy. The attack was so severe the boy had to have a testicle removed. The boy had been bullied repeated before solely based on his neurological condition.
The school Superintendent Myrna Corley's response: “It's an unfortunate situation.”
On Tuesday, though I have no fine motor control of my hand and limited gross motor skill I was trying to make a complaint about discrimination on disability AT a disability vocational center when the manager would only accept the complaint if I did it MYSELF, in WRITING. This was a painful and very slow process, of over 20 minutes for three minutes of writing. Later the manager apologized saying, she had made me do that because, "I had made her angry." The full story is here.
Gosh, I guess I should hope she doesn't get angry often.
Today I was terrorized by a care worker who I asked to be removed because a) she didn’t respect my space or belongings (picking things up, using my time and kitchen to make her lunch instead of mine, going through my stuff looking for things that interested her) and b) because she was not self directing and crossed personal boundaries. I and Linda had talked and talked to the agency twice earlier in the week to have her cancelled from coming today at 1 p.m.
Today, a woman showed up at my apartment, not identifying herself on the buzzer, only giving the name of the care giving agency. She showed up before 10:00 a.m. and after walking into my apartment did what no worker has ever done in the eight months of homecare: she locked the door behind her. It was the woman who had been cancelled. She was angry. I was terrified. I kept telling myself, “You take boxing, she probably thinks you are a lot weaker than you are.” She wouldn’t explain why she was there, I insisted she call the care agency and when she went to the other room where I heard her going through the objects, picking up my hand blown glass earrings, a gift from Linda before eventually making the call. She was in the wrong building. She never explained why she showed up, she just kept glaring at me and I kept saying, “No care for me today, okay.”
How to explain the terror of seeing the person you cancelled over a day ago showing up hours early, locking the door behind her and being angry, knowing that if she wanted she could drag me off the chair and leave me on the floor to choke. How many of you are REQUIRED to leave your door open so over a dozen people can come and go because it is acknowledged that you are too weak or in need of care to reliably open the door…..or coincidentally defend yourself.
Maybe this seems a bit all over the place. So let me try and bring it together for you. Yeah, I’m nominated for a Canadian Feminist blog award, and much like the other Canada blog awards (which had a category for craft blogging) there is nothing for disability. The person nominating me, as much as I appreciated it, make mention of none of the blogs I have done about what will be a significant experience for at least 1 in 7 women out there: having or having a loved one processed and labeled with a chronic condition or impairment. They did however mention the posts I did BEFORE I got sick. And yes, I used to blog on women and sports. But you know what, I STILL blog on women and sports. What do you think my post on 10 easy steps to Badminton for PWD’s was? Or my post on why I, as a woman in a wheelchair, love to box is?
I am not oppressed by the patriarchy; it was not a man who denied me a shower in a town where a poodle can get a shower and shampoo in a couple hours with a single call. It was H., the RN Supervisor and A.M. the Case Manager, women. The people at Triumph who systematically abuse people with disabilities with their negative reinforcement “Behavioral Training” from the person on the phone all the way up to the Site Manager are all woman, as was the case manager who watched me labor painfully because I made her angry. And I am pretty sure that a majority of them, if not all would call themselves Feminists, would say, that they, in their job are upholding their Religions’ ethics, they are HELPING people. That whatever their political side, they think they are doing a good job. Do you think that 911 caller or the female Superintendant of Schools think, “Golly, I hate Crips, and today I am going to stick it to one?” No, they do their job knowing that at the end of the day they make the world a better place.
Yesterday, Linda said, “Do you think it is wise to have so much gay and lesbian manga/books around with all the (straight) home care workers coming?” There have been a few incidents. I need help showering, and yes, I’m pretty openly lesbian, except, when a caregiver gets quiet or puts down a lesbian book she picked up like it is a snake, how comfortable are you going to be when she showers you; when she puts on your bra, when she changes you and lays you in bed? Do other people receiving care worry about these things, are caregivers even trained on these issues? I just want to know why, after years and years of having gay and lesbian manga on my shelves and in the bathroom, NOW, this week, Linda thinks it might be “too open?”
Domino from Vancouver writes on Ouch! at the BBC about a queer event which is not accessible and when she complains to the vendor and organizer is told that isn’t likely to change. The response on the BBC from one reader was, responding that hey, if you want LGBTQ spaces to be accessible you wouldn’t last a day in London. I can attest from personal experience that Victoria, BC and Cardiff, UK doesn’t have accessible Queer spaces, at least the majority of times. Ironically, the Gay/Lesbian organization my partner was on the board of, I would not be able to attend any of their meetings, since they meet in inaccessible spaces.
And why does it matter?
Because there aren’t two groups: Feminists and Disabled, Queer and Disabled, Christians and Disabled, Politically Aware and Disabled, (Insert grouping here) and Disabled. We are the SAME. Sure, it might be convenient to try and separate the two, to try and leave those who are people with disabilities and impairments behind, to not speak up for those who often do not have a presence and voice loud enough to be heard. But on practical reasons, it is more than slightly hypocritical to be advocating for equality, for acceptance, for inclusion while those who are just too much damn trouble or who can’t ‘keep up’ are tossed out the back. Feminism is about the lives and struggles of women, and if sickness, if being labeled hysterical, if being misdiagnosed, if being a caregiver, a PWD isn’t a strong part of that message (which I must be missing between the important issues that rage through the blogsphere from endless women born women issues to the evils of beauty industry and those who take pharmaceuticals) then what is?
No it isn’t pretty for Christians to talk about a loving God or a doctrine of Health, Wealth and Obedience and then try to explain us 1 in 7 (the number most countries find where someone has a permanent disability/impairment). Christians don’t talk about God loving with cancer, or with fibro, or with MS (though it strikes 1 in 750).
I live in a country where the last national legislation put through was RDSP’s – where you give money from your excess savings for your retirement and the government kicks in about $25,000 over 20 years. We don’t have a national disability act, we have staggering rates of unemployment for People with Disabilities and they pass a savings program where you give your money to the government for 20 years. Okay. Will this help those who have children who are dependants even into adulthood? Yes. Is this a significant step forward in the rights of people with disabilities? Are you kidding? Ask anyone in a wheelchair if store clerks, government agencies, people on the street or restaurants servers would talk in the same tone to someone else based on gender, orientation or race? Or rather, when was the last time, as a woman you went to lunch with work colleagues and the person taking orders ignores your order of a chicken salad, turns to the man sitting closest to you and asks, “What does she want to eat?” Would that be considered a feminist issue? I ask because it is so commonplace that it’s just another wheelie joke. When was the last time you tried to enter a store and had the manager come out and tell you “This store isn’t capable of accommodating people like you?” Any interest from LGBTQ or religions yet? How about coming to a hotel and being told, “We can’t accommodate your type here.” Any interest from equality advocates of Race, Gender, anyone?
When you volunteer at a political campaign, do you have to have three different meeting and sign up to 10 pages of documents of liability waivers, all drawn up by someone who has no medical training? When you go into a job temp agency, how many months of “orientation” do you have to work through before you actually have your resume submitted to the pool? I am guessing about 1 day for people NOT going to a disability work assist program. Still not an issue worth fighting for? Or is it just the people not worth fighting for?
You may say to me, “What did you do on disability rights when you were writing feminist/Activist/LGBTQ posts and articles?” Here is the answer: NOTHING.
Okay, does the fact that I was stupid, a bigot and choose to ignore a segment of the population which were NOT separated from me, but rather part of the groups I was championing (but in bigotry ignoring in my coverage), mean that you get a BIGOT FOR LIFE pass? I guess only you can decide that.
I was and still am adamant about women in sports. I was and still am an athlete. And if you can’t understand that what I write about sports or my athletics now is as or more important than before well, then educate yourself. I am twice the athlete I was: I am weaker, I will go to no championships or tournaments, I will not stand among those photographed or nominated as women of sport yet I embody the very reasons why women choose and benefit from sports far more than ever before.
No, I don’t blog about my lesbian partner of 14 years and I going to this club or that film festival. I don’t have the energy to blog about emerging lesbian sports figures, or directors or TV coverage. But I do blog about a lesbian couple where when things got tough, when there was no support from community or family, one stayed to caregive for the other while doing a full time job and advancing her career. No, not as heart warming as the documentary of Saving Grace, a lesbian couple having a child, but a lesbian experience all the same, and one worth celebrating. Since when did “caregiver” become a dirty word?
Linda tells me that I am too blunt for my own good. And most of me wants to say, “You fuckin hypocrites!” but you know what, that’s not my closing message. This is: I spent my life fighting a fight in which I patted myself on the back while ignoring the very people of the group I was advocating for which had the least voice. Do NOT make the same mistake as me. Because I am your future, and that isn’t a curse, or some vengeful spite, but a statement of fact: we are born, we get sick and we die, you cannot stop this from happening to those around you, to those you love and even to yourself. Forbid that we should accept that yes, we are NOT in control of ourselves and our future and that maybe all those people aren’t lazy, deserve it or what other excuse you come up with to distance them from yourself. All you can do is by trying to deny it, deny those who NEED you, who are still waiting for you to ensure they are included. You don’t have to worry about an angry mob of people with MD busting down your church doors, invading your political volunteer station, your gay club – in some ways I wish you would. If this isn’t your problem, then it isn’t anyone’s problem.