It's Beginning to Look A Lot Like Fun*Run Time

It's ALREADY that time of year again: The ADAPT Fun*Run for Disability Rights is April 22nd 2012. Maryland's fundraising goal is $8,000 this year. Yes, that's right, $8,000

Donate $1! Donate $10! Donate $100! Donate $1,000! JUST DONATE so we can FREE OUR PEOPLE! I thank you very much for your support!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

An Experience

I've been going to the mall an awful lot lately. I live at the mall, you could say, I'm that close, so it's not hard to get to, and I'm looking for a cardigan to go with a dress I got for a wedding (I don't like blasting air conditioning) which you wouldn't think is as hard as it's been to find, a white or off white somewhat fitted cardigan, but it is.

Over the years I've lived here, as I've progressively been using my powerchair more and more, I've of course noticed children staring at me more and more. Not to say that they don't stare at me when I'm walking, not to say that they haven't been staring at me my whole life, or that adults can't be rude too. One time I was in Target with my chair and this kid turned his head around and kept his gaze on me the entire time he was walking in another direction with his dad, until I was out of sight.

When this happens with kids, it's usually from a distance, and so my standard response is to smile and wave and move on. When they're a bit closer I always wish I was able to say something educational, but I'm not good at being put on the spot. I can do a presentation to 100+ people just fine, but put me face to face with one person and I freeze up.

Such was the case at the mall this past weekend when a young girl walked up to me, put her hand on my joystick box (thankfully not the actual joystick, there would have been an accident) locked her gaze on me and asked me "Why do you need this? Why are you using a wheelchair?"

The quick and easy answer is "I can't walk," but that is not true, and if I'm going to educate, I'm going to educate that some people who own wheelchairs have them to use just sometimes. So then what do I say? "I can't walk home the 3 blocks, which includes up the parking garage ramp, especially if I am holding bags of stuff." I mean maybe with my crutches, but then what do I do with my stuff? That answer just didn't seem right in the moment.

What did I end up doing? I went mute, said absolutely nothing, and turned towards the item I was interested in looking at. Although I did not feel good ignoring the kid. So what would you do?


Laurel said...

I think it's important to remember that when you're talking to children, they're in concrete ops. Abstractions--like "sometimes"--aren't going to be understood, much less remembered. Accuracy is important, yes, but so is knowing your audience.

Sure, 'I can't walk,' is the easy answer. There's also, 'This is how I get around, just like you do by walking,' or some other such. But what they are going to remember is whether you were smiling and the tone of your voice--and that's what their parents are going to remember, too.

Adelaide Dupont said...

Laurel: yes, about the smiling! And Piaget is not the only way, certainly not in cognitive development. (We could argue that he is ableist).

I remember - well after I was in concrete operations (and Forced Migration Review has me there!) - reading that 95% of people who use wheelchairs walk.

Whose Law is it Anyway: Ju Gosling

Some years before, in 2001, there was this athlete who was in the Atlanta Paralympics.

His doctor asked him, "How far can you walk" and how far away his friends were.

This reinforced the "with difficulty" aspect.

So you could say - "because it makes things easier for me". Just like a cart makes things easier for a kid or a parent.

And it's adults, not children, who do the active and passive discriminating.

I could lend you my cardigan, depending on sizes. Because of my preference for active wear while out, it lies there.

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