Sunday, 14 August 2016

Do you remember the International Year

of Disabled People? Most of my readers probably won't. It was a long time ago and, unless you have a disability, it probably passed you  by - like most other international years. I wonder how much good it really did? 
There is currently a bit of an uproar over the "banning" from a bank of a man who just happens to have severe cerebral palsy. He isn't able to walk and his capacity to communicate is limited. Like everyone though he needs money from time to time but he can't use the teller machine. 
Oh, it would be so good if he could use the teller machine. It would save the bank staff from the obvious embarrassment of dealing with him. They wouldn't need to be confronted by his problems. They have accused him of being "violent" and "abusive".
I haven't met him but I know someone who knows him and she confirmed my suspicions  that he has almost no control over his movements. If he gets in the least bit excited he is likely to quite accidentally and unintentionally kick his legs out. If you are in the way you will get kicked but....he does not intend to kick and he most certainly is not being violent. As for the "abusive" bit may I also explain that he cannot control his limited speech? If he can say anything intelligible at all then it isn't going to sound normal. He is almost certainly making a huge effort to communicate. The effort might cause him to shout. It isn't meant to be abusive.
Yes, I do know about these things. I have mild cerebral palsy myself. I have fine motor control problems. I sometimes spill drinks. The stitches come off my the knitting needles because I will give a "jerk" I can't control. My writing is barely legible. I don't move quickly. (Try to hurry me and I am more likely to fall over or seize up.) The other day someone shouted at me and told me I shouldn't "be out on (my) own" because I was slower than they liked.   
I still consider myself pretty fortunate because I have taught children like the young man trying to use the bank. I know how damn hard they try to make themselves understood.  
When I was teaching I was told I was "too patient". I would wait for the child to give me an answer. I still remember vividly the day that I saw one of the children in my class being given a drink of "orange juice". It wasn't juice at all but a very sweet concoction that had other things in it. He was coughing and spluttering as the aide feeding him tried to force it down. 
"You have to have a drink," she told him. 
I stopped her and I asked, "P... do you like that orange drink?" His eyes went to the floor - his way of saying "no". 
      "Would you rather have some water?" His eyes went to the ceiling "Yes". 
The water went down without any trouble at all. He smiled his thanks.  He must really have disliked the other drink because, at the time, the city's water tasted particularly nasty.
The aide wasn't pleased though - because it meant bothering to ask, to wait for a reply. It was simpler if all the children had the same thing. She thought he was being "difficult". Her attitude was that if you need someone else to do things for you then you abide by what they want, not what you want.
To my way of thinking though P.... did exactly the right thing. He was a very "polite" child on the whole. 
I'm sorry but I am not in the least bit sorry that it takes some of us a bit longer or that we are a bit more awkward. We aren't being deliberately difficult. We almost certainly aren't being violent or abusive. It's just the way we are and the rest of you will just have to learn to live with it. 


kayT said...

I wish everyone in the world could read this and then really think about it. All of us, if we live long enough, are likely to need someone to help us with some things and we can only hope the helpers will be your kind of people and not like those who think if we need their help we must take it on their terms. Thanks for writing as you do, to try to remind people how to be human.

Janet McKee said...

Very good advice.

Anonymous said...

On the assumption that P.... had no other way of telling his carer that he didn't like the drink then he was absolutely right to do as he did.
You don't talk much about your own disability. I didn't even know you had one until I actually met you but since then I have sometimes wondered whether you don't want to get angry when people interfere and make assumptions. Chris

Jodiebodie said...

I remember the International Year of the Disabled happening but the year escapes me - was it 1980 or 1982? Regardless it was mostly ineffective to my mind. It took 'only' 35 years for the first braille bank note to be released - a new $5 bill goes into circulation today.

We are still regularly hearing reports of horrific abuse perpetrated upon people with disabilities - some even losing their lives. A serious cultural change is necessary amongst people who work in the 'care' sectors. I don't like the use of the word 'care' or 'carer' to describe people who get paid to look after people's needs. As a support recipient it is nice if my workers do 'care' about me but they do not need to 'care' about me personally in order to do their job professionally.

The term 'Carer' should refer to those unpaid people like family and friends who help to meet someone's needs and look after them.

I prefer paid workers to be called by their job description "Support worker" or "paid helper". It encourages a professional relationship in an area where the lines between 'personal' and 'professional' can easily become blurred.

You have written another great post here, Cat. We need to get these messages out to the general public as much as possible. Without the pressure there will be no change. Abuse towards the most vulnerable in our society is deplorable. People who are vulnerable are often too scared of retribution or worse abuse to complain or they have communication difficulties that make it almost impossible to have their voices heard. We need to tell these stories, let the world know and put pressure on those attitudes and institutions that need to change to a client-focussed agenda.

By the way, for anyone with a disability: you are not a burden, you have worth in this world, you deserve respect.

"It's OK to complain."

catdownunder said...

1982 Jodie - and, you're right, it was largely ineffective. I am still having to explain the most basic of basic things, especially about communication.