I am a bit more settled in. I can get to the grocery store without the GPS directing me. I know great places for Kate and I to walk. I am figuring out bike paths. Why I even found a great hot dog lady in a nearby town. More importantly I am putting the finishing touches on my classes. I am eager to teach my graduate class in bioethics and disability. I look forward to getting back to the honors department this semester. In short, a new routine is being established. I was feeling pretty good about life until yesterday. At a local strip mall in Syracuse I was doing some shopping. I made several trips in and out of various stores. Shoot, I even found a spot in handicapped parking. My head is swimming and I am following a long list to the letter. On one of my forays I noted a group from what I assumed was the local group had parked near the entrance to Wegmans (a great supermarket chain). There were about 8-10 adults with a dizzy array of visible disabilities outside the store entrance. I was pleased to see this group out and about. No doubt the logistics involved in such a trip are daunting. I was not really paying much attention to them. I was far more concerned with not getting hit by a car in the parking lot. I head in the direction of Wegmans where the residents of the group home were gathered in a small huddle. Suddenly I feel a person grab the back of my wheelchair with authority and yank my wheelchair in the direction of the group home residents. This is not easy to do as I have no handles on my wheelchair so people do not do what this person has done. At the same time I am scolded "How dare you leave the group. You could be hurt. You know better. I am taking you back to the others and do not move". The tone of this woman's voice is nasty--think drill sergeant like. She has what she thinks is a command presence. This might work in the military and in Catholic school but not among the public. As we are traveling to the right I take my fore arm and with significant force bash my forearm against her arm. She instantly let go of the wheelchair and I spun around obviously angry. She was shocked but not hurt (I could never harm another human being). A very unpleasant though brief conversation ensued. She was not impressed with me. I was deemed rude and nasty. She told me she made an honest mistake. I was deemed over sensitive if not hysterical. The tone of her voice remained dominant as did her body language. Her apology was not sincere. She was deeply annoyed with me. I was essentially an uppity cripple. How dare I assert myself. How dare I assert the fact I am an autonomous being. How dare I be human!
The above incident was unusual. It took place in Syracuse where there appears to be a small but notable number of people with a disability. Syracuse University is also well known for its championship of disability rights. I remain upset about what took place. It was not the rude behavior of the woman in question. It was not the assumption she made that all people live or are part of a group home. All of these are objectionable. What bothered me was the extreme authority she freely wielded. If she treated me in this manner how did she treat the residents of the group home? Not well I assume. This is not acceptable and it kept me up much of the night. Exactly why do people with a disability routinely get treated like shit? Why do the hordes of bipedal people assume my life and the lives of all people with a disability lack value? Worse why is such a discriminatory person working in a group home? Yes, I had good reason to toss and turn last night.
Paralyzed since I was 18 years old, I have spent much of the last 30 years thinking about the reasons why the social life of crippled people is so different from those who ambulate on two feet. After reading about the so called Ashley Treatment I decided it was time to write a book about my life as a crippled man. My book, Bad Cripple: A Protest from an Invisible Man, will be published by Counter Punch. I hope my book will completed soon.
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Thursday, August 7, 2014
Disability: A Cure for Developing a Big Ego
Posted by william Peace at 2:17 PM
PhD 1992 in anthropology Columbia University, I am interested in disability rights and bioethics.
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Are you sure this woman was an employee? If she was, it's worth the effort to locate the group home and report her. How can she not recognize the people she works with? If she speaks that way to someone in public, what is she doing behind closed doors?
Such people are nightmarish, no matter what the circumstances.
And one thing that scares me is they get away with their behavior. No public opprobrium, no witnessing.
Nothing attracts toxic petty tyrants like institutional settings populated by vulnerable people. I have met too, TOO many versions of that woman. I don't think I would have been able to keep my reaction as measured as yours. Although, if you hadn't been too startled to hold back, it would've been mighty interesting to wait for her to notice her mistake, back in the company of the entire group, before treating her to the epic comeuppance she deserved. Bet you would've gotten a rousing ovation from her unfortunate charges.
It seems wildly unlikely that you bore any significant resemblance to any one individual out of the 8-10 people in the group with which this "caregiver" was associated. Even if she'd been less aggressive and nasty, the mere fact that she pegged you as one of the group based solely on your use of a wheelchair would still speak volumes about her utter non-perception of the individual humanity of the people in her "care." Appalling.
Hanna, Good question. In my experience typical people avoid those with a disability--especially those with an obvious cognitive disability. The woman in question seemed to be in a supervisory role. I could be wrong as I did not ask her directly about her role.
A. This is what kept me tossing and turning. What happens when she is at work.
Lyn, I have no idea why but I agree tyrants seem to enjoy working in institutions where they can wield absolute authority. Add in the reliance of institutions on the schedule/routine and people are quickly dehumanized. Not sure how measured my reaction was. I could have easily hurt the woman's wrist. Just could not do that.
I agree with the others about reporting this for the sake of people who may be subjected to her more frequently. I have a theory about why people like this are attracted to vulnerable people. They have a strong need to feed superior because deep down they feel quite inferior. They need to find people they can look down on to justify themselves.
It would make an interesting newspaper article. With pictures
Middle. I do not have handles on the back of my wheelchair because people think that they have the right to not only grab them but move as they see fit. In fact last night I was at very small concert that lacked appropriate wheelchair seating and a man grabbed my wheelchair in an effort to move me where he felt was in his best interest. Another person kept hitting my wheelchair with her foot. I could go on the lack of basic human decency remains commonplace.
Is your dog with you when all this obnoxious grabbing and shoving is going on?
A. Kate was not with me. She gets too stressed out in the supermarket.
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