It’s my favourite Monday of the year! The clocks fell back an hour for most of Canada last night so I feel like I’m up extra early and have lots of time to accomplish things today!
Not that this actually works out in practice.
How do you talk to a disabled person?
Twice this week, two people who were listening to me talk about the social changes that coincide with disability told me that people just don’t know how to talk to someone in a wheelchair. Now one of these people, a friend, certainly talks to me and the other person works with a service dog group, so they don’t mean themselves. I’ve found what they said to be true. My suggestion is to at least try, because often you’ll be the only person who does. This is often more damaging to my children than to me. Converse with me as you would with anyone–about the kids’ school or activities, education, politics, the arts, travel, our children, the odd weather, upcoming holidays, disability issues, health care reform. If you don’t know me, make the same small talk with me as you would with anyone. If you already know me, I’m truly the same person. If you’re feeling awkward about wheelchair use, work on overcoming that; I don’t feel awkward about it at all but I do sometimes feel absolutely unwelcome when you won’t make eye contact, say hello, or speak to me anymore. If you’re so concerned that you’ll be rude that you’ll freeze up, here are some suggestions, most of which have little to do with what you say and more with safety or manners:
So I posted an innocuous, friendly sort of post in the large and voluble lace-knitting forum on Yahoo about knitters with disabilities which keep them from reading charted patterns. Correction–the knitters themselves had brought up their experiences and frustrations, and after some back-and-forth on the subject, I thought, “Hey, let’s see if anyone’s willing to send polite notes to publishers, en masse, to bring the problem to publishers’ attention.” Cos hey, I love my charts and I find following written instructions really difficult, but that doesn’t mean that knitters who can’t read charts due to a disability should have to miss out on the fun.
Well goddamn, you would not believe the sheer hostility that erupted. One woman in particular posted a rambling screed about how her mother had polio, but “overcame” her disability and got angry when people offered to help her; she then claimed that the knitting world didn’t need to be “fixed,” and that she was being discriminated against. I’m not sure how anyone is discriminating against this able-bodied person; did a brigade of visually-impaired and neuroatypical knitters march up to her house and forcibly steal her charted patterns? (Given how hostile her response was, I think I’d enjoy seeing that!) Language about “preferences” (a very different thing from a disability) and defensiveness about how it’s okay to like charts proliferated in the discussion. If suggesting that all knitters should get to enjoy their craft is such an offensive idea–if the idea of someone else sharing the dignity means, to these people, that there’s suddenly not enough dignity to go around, as if dignity was some kind of limited-quantity resource–then yes, the knitting world does need fixing. Then again, the world in general could use a little fixing, by those standards.
Last week on Curb Your Enthusiasm, Larry meets a woman named Denise in a coffee shop. They flirt and Larry asks her out. Larry is excited about it… until he sees Denise is in a wheelchair.
Larry is clearly repulsed by the idea of going out with Denise but as he tells his friend Jeff, “I was stuck. I didn’t want her to think I was a bad guy.” Jeff tries to reassure Larry that it’ll be okay to date a woman in a wheelchair by saying, “It’s an adventure, it’s an adventure.” Yeah, Larry, dating a woman who can’t walk is like a trip to see the freaky disabled woman in the sideshow at the circus. Who knows, she may even get frisky with ya. That’ll be adventurous, for sure.
So they go on their date. As Larry pushes Denise up to the restaurant’s entrance he says, “If we’re going to have a second date, you’re going to have to get an electric chair. I’m not doing this again.” Cue symphony of tiny violins.
In the news:
House health care legislation expected within days is likely to include a new long-term care insurance program to help seniors and disabled people stay out of nursing homes, senior Democrats say.
The voluntary program would begin to close a gap in the social safety net overlooked in the broader health care debate, but it must overcome objections from insurance companies that sell long-term care coverage and from fiscal conservatives.
Female veterans complain of less pain than men [Warning: This is a mainstream media discussion of a medical report.]
Female veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars are less likely to complain of painful physical conditions than their male counterparts, according to a U.S. study.
The study of more than 91,000 U.S. veterans runs counter to what is seen in the general population where women typically show higher rates of chronic pain conditions, including migraines, fibromyalgia and persistent abdominal pain.