Phew what a couple of weeks it has been. And I’ll have to admit I found myself in a weepy, emotional state more times than I’d like to admit. My partner is currently attending the University of Queensland, and finishing up his masters degree there. I’ve never, in all my years on this earth, encountered such narrow minded individuals in academia….never. Now don’t get me wrong, I know there are worse places in this world than Brisbane, Australia when it comes to equality for people with disabilities….however for a country with so much wealth, and access to knowledge it blows my mind that there is such ignorance amongst ‘intelligent’ individuals.
“Can you support an obese patient”, well to that I’d ask, “well can that colleague of my husband who is 5 feet tall physically support an obese patient on her own? Probably not right?”
“How long do you need to take breaks for?”, to which I’d say “oh wait, so all the students will be standing the entire 8 hours of their shift? No one takes breaks? Hmmm then ya maybe my partner would have to sit down occasionally if he’s expected to be standing for 8 hours straight like everyone else (*hint of sarcasm*).”
“We need a detailed description of his braces”, to which I’d say “Oh you mean the braces he hasn’t worn in…months? Those braces? Oh ok. How about the couple of students who have broken or twisted various part of their bodies and have to wear braces occasionally. Do they have to give a detailed account of how they will manage and what types of braces they use?”
I think you see where I’m going with this. Basically each and every student will have ‘things’ they can’t do. And each an every student will be expected to communicate this with whomever they are working under…except for my partner. He’s expected to make a written plan. A plan that is pretty black and white and that definitively tells them what to expect. Well, news flash, just like everyone else he’ll have good days and bad days. Days he can do more and days he can do less. And not everything is due to his disability….some things are just because of his height, or weight, or because he’s….human(gasp).
And I realize I’m generalizing here. I’m sure there are departments at this school that are able to meet individuals as they are instead of clumping all disabled people into one big neat pile so that they don’t have to understand the subtle differences that makes people individuals. I just haven’t gotten to meet them yet. If it weren’t for our friends I’m pretty sure the stress of all the doubt being thrown my parters way would be extremely overwhelming.
Growing up I was privileged enough to be surrounded by students, faculty, and staff that makeup The University of Chicago Lab Schools, The University of Chicago, and The University of Chicago Hospitals. Within that huge network I was even more fortunate to know a group of individuals who appreciated the differences that people bring to the table. That’s not to say we all sat around singing songs and holding hands…..however differences were embraced and people took the time to understand them. And that is what I miss. It is something unique, not always easily found, but I know it is out there.
The types of questions my partner has to deal with feel like a segment from Fox News. Unimaginative. Based off of old stereotypes. And at the end of the day showing how little people understand about disabilities in general or how little they actually care. I mean we live in the age of google right? And I can assure you the individuals I’m talking about have access to google.
I’ve had to step into the role of cheerleader – but I know it is still wearing him down quite a bit. There is only so many times I can say, “oh brush it off you’ve got this” or “I’m sure your friend didn’t mean it that way” or “no worries they just don’t get it, its not your job to enlighten everyone about your disability, those people who actually care will take the time to figure out how they can help, and those who don’t care…well thats their choice. It’s all good.”
I’m running out of mantras to tell him.
I have fantasies of sitting people down and explaining their ignorance to them. But its not my place. And its also not their job to care either. So here we are. In an uncomfortable space. And unfortunately they don’t get to see all the pain and hurt that they cause him. Thats reserved for me the cheerleader.
If I could leave you with any sort of takeaway it is this:
~People with disabilities are just people who do some things like people without disabilities and then do other things differently
~Not all people in a wheelchair have the same abilities/disabilities
~Instead of telling people to give up, or asking if they think they fit in with the current system, try to be imaginative and innovative and find a new way for them to do what they do….it usually isn’t all that hard and in the end everyone wins as you open the door for more people to succeed in different ways
~Don’t feel like you have to care – not everyone has to be a social justice warrior. Thats ok! Sometimes just listening is enough and then you move on to something you feel you understand more or something else that you can bond over. Video games? Football? Genuine dislike of Picasso? Anything works!
~Stand up for people with disabilities if you can – if you can stand up for someone who is being bullied because of their disability do it. It really means a lot to people…and well, helps them feel more like people and less like a burden.
Well I promise I’ll get to another recipe soon. Have I mentioned I’m pregnant haha. Baby is due in under 3 weeks and I’m trying to keep a lil calm ‘n’ peace about me before her arrival. I needed to vent and get this off my chest, as its been a source of many a cry sesh lately. Sigh. It is only temporary right? Thats what I keep telling myself. I’m too blessed to be stressed and with that I’m heading out into the day.