I am in Ontario and had an interesting morning. I have been to Ontario a number of times this year. I am learning |Canada has a differnt cultural response to disability. Generally speaking, I have found Ontario residents to be far more tolerant than my fellow New Yorkers. By tolerant I mean I am not accosted as frequently in Ontario than I am in New York. In the last few months I am struck by the nuimber of people I see with a disability doing ordinary things in Ontario. every day I see a person with a disability out and about. For instance, I saw a woman using a power wheelchair and holding the hand of the man next to her. A child was getting a free ride on the back of her wheelchair. I was thrilled to see this normalcy--just parents out for a walk with their child. As passed this family what I saw only got better. On the woman's lap was another young child. This truly made my day as I rarely see parents with a disability. Regardless, fast forward to today. I am leaving a local supermarket and an elderly man looks at me and says "Bugger me, your life must really suck.". I just stared and did not reply. I consider myself lucky as the follow up line was not forthcoming--such lines are always even more more demeaning. I drove all of 50 yards to a gas station to fill up my tank. As I am getting out of the car and putting my wheelchair together a young guy at the opposite pump asks me "How do you like it?" I reply "The wheelchair or the car? This is greated with a healthy chuckle and he says "the car". We engage in a typical male discussion about cars--model type, year, engine size, reliability etc. In short, it was an ordinary conversation.
The above anecdote makes me realize just how uneven the response to disability can be. On the one hand I had an elderly man demean me. It was likely not his intent and he obviously had an antiquated view of disability. He could also fear disability. Given his age, if he lives long enough he will have a disability of some sort. In contrast the young guy I met did not even deem my wheelchair and paralysis worthy of mention much less disacussion. The guy just really liked my car. He was far more interested in the sort of engine my car had and we wondered why more diesal cars are not sold in North America. The startling social dichotomy I experienced within 50 yards and less than five minutes reveals the inherent difficulty in assessing the social impact of disability. The elderly man clearly accepted a medical model of disability. The young man in contrast did not consider my disability worth a mention. Age is surely a factor. But I am not going to blast all elderly people--I have met many older folks with a nuanced view of disability. I have met young biggots as well. I am not sure what to make of my experience but do know my life is never dull or that I can never truly be anaonymous.
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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Wednesday, August 15, 2012
Bad to Good in 50 Yards
Posted by william Peace at 10:13 AM
PhD 1992 in anthropology Columbia University, I am interested in disability rights and bioethics.
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If you had less people accost you in Ontario, I'd hate to live in New York.
Speeding through our little town in TN with sons in wagon. Their daddy is jogging, pulling the wagon.
A dad and lad combo pass us, going faster. Dad is on a bike. Son is in a tall automatic chair, controlled with a toggle switch, wearing a helmet, and MOVING!
Both sets of grin. The little guy in the chair gives my guys a look as he turns the corner, like, "Yeah, mine goes faster."
It's a purely boy moment, all three joined in admiration of aerodynamic awesomeness.
Dad and lad whiz past and are gone.
Your last line -- life never dull or anonymous, indeed! Enjoyed the other comments as well.
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