Question Time: Positive Experiences with Abled People

Question Time is a series in which we open up the floor to you, commenters. We invite you to share as you feel comfortable.

Tell us about a positive experience you’ve had interacting with abled people.

By 13 December, 2009.    Question Time   



14 Comments

  1. All of my professors have been really nice and understanding, but my Arabic professor topped them all!

    I said that I wouldn’t be in class, I was too hot. So he said we could meet after class – outside. (It was too cold outside for reviewing Arabic, but we did meet in one place that was a little bit less “Memphis in summer” than the classroom.)

  2. The one that always sticks with me is when I went to visit the man who would become my husband. We’d vaguely known each other for a while, but hadn’t seen each other in years.

    We say hi, give hugs, and then he says to me “So I know you’re hard of hearing. Is there anything I should know to make it easier for us to communicate?”

    Simple, straightforward, not awkward in the least – and so, so refreshing to get that all dealt with right up front. One of the many reasons I ended up marrying the guy 😉

  3. Having a difficult time after a hospital visit, I sent my dance teachers a list of accommodations I required (like not being led into moves that used the muscles which had been affected) and assured them I would tell them as and when I’d recovered enough to not need any one of the accommodations. My dance teachers absorbed the list and did precisely what I’d asked, even when they got told off by a fellow dancer who was persisting in treating me like I might break (instead of allowing me to use the muscles I needed to keep exercised). I trust these people to do what I ask them to whether or not they think it is what I should be doing – and they trust me to ask them for what I need. I don’t trust the fellow dancer, who still persists in treating me with kid gloves, even though I am back up to baseline.

    My dance teachers make me feel secure that what I want and need is important, and they take my capacity to speak for myself for granted. They don’t ask my partner whether I can do stuff, they ask ME.

  4. I have several friends who accept and are used to the quirks resulting from my Nonverbal Learning Disability and are willing to act as translators in situations in which I become confused. My little sister is the best at this, because she has literally never experienced life without me and my disability. I think that makes it less wierd to her than it is to other people.

    The sweetest thing — I recently had a friend tell me that she is always flattered when I say that something she says or thinks makes sense, because she knows that that means she has met my high logical standards.

  5. My friends and I were making holiday plans that involved going to a theme park, which I’d never done before. They were both really keen on the idea so I went along with it although I had misgivings. Later, when we were starting to look at travel arrangements and accommodation, I confessed to one of my friends that whilst the park sounded awesome, being in crowded, noisy places I couldn’t easily escape from sometimes triggered my panic attacks. She did everything she could to make it clear that it was totally okay if I needed to leave the situation for somewhere less crowded, that all I had to do was let one of them know. During the trip (which went really well) she’d periodically ask me if I was doing okay, but it was never intrusive. Instead of making me feel like a burden or trying to talk me out of my anxiety (“waiting in line won’t hurt you, so why are you scared?”), she accepted it and offered the accommodations she could without hesitation. I’ll never stop being grateful for that.

  6. When I was in high school, I spent several years working at Limited Too (a tween clothing store). When I was interviewed, I raised the issue that I couldn’t use the telephone because of my hearing aides, especially with the background music that the store played. For the entire time I worked there, all of my coworkers went out of their way to make sure that someone else was always available to answer the phone or to make calls to other stores when my customers were looking for a size we didn’t have in stock. There were a couple times when my back was to the cash registers when a customer came up and got rude when I didn’t hear them, and my coworkers would snap, “She has hearing aides, don’t be rude.” I always felt very accepted by everyone in that store and they always had my back and never once made me feel like I was a burden.

  7. A few years back when I was coaching gymnastics in another state, one parent told another parent of a kid in one of my classes, “oh, did you know she’s autistic?” in that whole “such an inspiration” way.

    Parent freaked out, pulled her kid because it might be contagious, and my boss told her she wasn’t welcome to reenroll with another instructor if she was pulling because of prejudice, and any instructor at our gym would rearrange their lives to have their kids in my class. It made me warm and fuzzy inside.

  8. I was talking to some friends in my orchestra class when my stutter became prevalent in my speech. A boy I barely knew interrupted me and said ‘Was that a stutter I heard?’. Preparing for ridicule, I swallowed and said that I did indeed stutter. He replied that he thought my stuttering is cool and makes me unique. It was a little out of the blue, but I appreciated it greatly. It made me feel awesome that someone who didn’t know I stuttered had a positive reaction to my disfluency.

  9. I just remembered…almost three years ago now, one of my friends from university and I were on the bus. I remember because the day before, I had pulled out my cane, and saw him looking at it, because my disability is invisible, so he would have had no idea I was partially sighted.

    Anyway, that particular day, three of us got on the bus, to find that there was only one seat left (one of the foldy-up ones on the side) and he pulled the seat down and held it for me to sit on it! He didn’t make a big deal of it, he just did it.

    Is it just me that finds it kind of sad that it took me almost two days to remember that?

  10. I have a professor this semester who has been pretty supportive. I am always afraid, when handling accommodations with my professors, that they will look at me as less capable, or worse, cheating the system, since they can’t SEE the reason why I occasionally need extra time to complete assignments, or at times comprehend coursework completely, while other times absorb absolutely nothing from lecture. I am always afraid that someone at the university will suggest that perhaps getting a degree isn’t for me.

    But this professor doesn’t judge. She knows that I am working with disabilities services and she accepts that some students need to learn differently, and this does not make them less intelligent. When I told her I was worried about occasionally not being able to attend class, she set me up with someone with whom I could study and share notes. When I told her I was embarrassed about my midterm grade, she reassured me that tests were graded anonymously, and that she understands sometimes problems arise, and she would never judge a student for their grades.

    This week I am writing the final for this class with a special examination center. I get my own quiet room, the ability to take breaks, and an extra hour to write. She told me that she will come check on me in that extra hour, once the rest of the class has finished, to clarify anything I might need, so that I won’t be at a disadvantage by writing separately from my classmates.

    I appreciate these little gestures and encouragements that remind me I can still succeed.

  11. I remember that on my first date with my current boyfriend, we were going to a restaurant that had ceiling fans, and I confessed my phobia of spinning objects to him, and explained that they trigger panic attacks for me sometimes. Rather than reacting with an “oh, that’s so weird,” he just took it in stride, and even asked if I’d still be okay to go to the restaurant. It was a kind gesture, and the fact that he didn’t see my phobia as freakish made me feel a lot more comfortable around him.

  12. I thought of another one, the last two guys I’ve dated have always remembered without me saying anything that I need Closed Captions on when we watch TV. One even, when he discovered they weren’t working on his TV in the bedroom, went digging for a cable that he realized wasn’t on the TV, even though it took him about 15 minutes to find it and delayed watching the on-demand movie we were going to watch. It was never a big deal to them and they always remembered.

  13. When I was in high school, I couldn’t eat lunch in the cafeteria because the conflicting sounds from everyone talking, eating and moving around would be too much for me and I’d break down, and CD/MP3 players weren’t permitted in school. My English teacher (who was always awesome) started letting me eat lunch with her in her classroom so that this didn’t happen anymore. I miss her.

    Later when she left the school, another teacher found me sitting in the bathroom with my lunch so as to avoid the cafeteria again. She offered her classroom to me and I started going there on a daily basis. She was cool too, though I didn’t really know her. She didn’t really ask why I couldn’t eat in the cafeteria, she just understood that I needed to stay away from there and offered me a safe haven. She would even let substitute teachers that were using her room know that I go in there during lunch.

  14. I’ve had some professors that were absolutely awesome.

    One of them, on the second or third day of class, asked me why I was walking with a cane. When I explained I had an as-yet undiagnosed disability that caused me a great deal of physical problems, he said that if there was anything at all he could do to help, I should just say so. And he meant it – I only had to ask him for help twice, and on both occasions he graciously did as I asked.

    While my mother doesn’t get the emotional side of being disabled at all (and rather refuses to), she is very good with the physical side. I became disabled as I was moving across country. The first time I visited home, our first day included buying me a new cane (as my good cane had been lost on a bus). Later that day, when I was resting, she went to a hardware store and bought new lever-style doorknobs for every door in the house that I’d need to be able to open or close, because I couldn’t close my hands around the round doorknobs.

    And then there is my boyfriend. On I think our third or fourth date, I asked him to come home with me and have tea and cuddle. We were in separate cars because we’d met at the place we had our date. Well, on the way home, I had such a severe IBS attack that I lost control of my bowels. He got to my place a minute or two before me because I had to stop and use a bathroom to do the best I could to clean myself up. I got home and let him in, then tearfully explained that I needed a shower RIGHT NOW and I’d explain after, but I understood if he wanted to leave now. He sat on the couch and waited. When I got out of the shower, I very timidly explained that I’d had a very bad IBS attack. I said I’d be alright for some cuddling and real low-key stuff, but not for more. He gave my hand a gentle squeeze and asked me if I wanted him to stay or if I needed to go rest. I was…well, shocked. I mean, I’d just shat my pants and even more-or-less admitted it, and his reaction was completely supportive and sweet. Wow, you know, that was almost 2 years ago. Heh. I knew he was a keeper!

    If I detailed all the things he’s done right, and all the times he’s listened while I’ve explained how things are offensive or problematic from my point of view (both relating to disability, which I sometimes have to explain, and relating to feminism, which he actually gets on his own without explanation 99% of the time)…well, this comment would end up needing its own zip code.

    ~Kali
    http://www.brilliantmindbrokenbody.wordpress.com