Ever hesitant to complain about access?Apr 02 04:33
A photo has gone viral after a mother posted an image of her son (who uses a wheelchair) on Facebook. The image (here) shows her son at his school choir concert parked on the far side of the choir stands, so far away from the able-bodied students that he could’ve been practicing a solo.
Not surprisingly, the photo has upset thousands of parents of children with disabilities who sadly know the inclusion fight all too well. The photo that’s gotten all the attention was taken by Arla Jan Wilson of Georgia, and her little cutie in the picture is Alex Wilson. She posted the photo with an apologetic disclaimer before complaining, “I hate to vent but…,” as you see parents of kids with disabilities do so often.
It can be a hard situation to get used to for parents when they first have a disabled child. They’re not used to the disability world and all the fighting that’s required for equal access. Finding your thick skin takes time. I think that a lot of parents don’t want to be the “rude” parents causing a ruckus. I can relate to this so much.
When I found myself newly disabled, I’d get pissed certain places weren’t accessible, but I was always hesitant to complain. I never wanted to be pegged as that disabled person — the one always causing “problems.” I was determined to project only a pleasant demeanor because I wanted everyone to like me. Talk about sad.
But Arla, myself and everyone out there who’s about to complain but withholds, we need to remember this: Change is never easy and always requires a little (OK, a lot) of uncomfortableness. Remember the tireless disabled advocates of the 1970s at the University of California-Berkeley who began the fight for equal access? It took countless sit-ins and protest upon protest to get where we are today. They pissed off a lot of people who didn’t understand the equal access fight, and that was unavoidable.
A little bitching on Facebook? Arla…have at it next time. Heck, open the flood gates. Your voice is more powerful, as your photo going viral proves, than you realize.
Have you ever second-guessed yourself before complaining about access?
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1. mimi | Apr 06 01:05
If you won't or can't speak up and hold your ground, there is always legal action. Various non-profit legal groups will represent the case without it costing money out of pocket.
2. RevDi | Apr 14 09:41
I'd love to tell Arla it gets better, but some members of the church choir where I worship while I'm on disability leave told me I didn't belong in their choir because I was in a wheelchair. I stuck it out for a year and a half, but the little kicks to my power chair by people crossing their legs, and the sighs, and the comments, and the throat clearing because I was in someone's way got to me. It was a pretty rude awakening, because the church I pastored built me a special pulpit to accommodate my chair, had the county put in a curb cut at the church, and ramped the parsonage for me. Somehow I thought all churches would be the same. I guess "open hearts, open minds, open doors" means different things to different congregations.
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Tiffiny Carlson is freelance writer and writes the “SCI Life” column for New Mobility. She's also a C6 quad from a diving accident that occurred when she was 14 years old. A lifelong resident of Minneapolis, Tiffiny has been a writer in the disability community for over 10 years and writes for several publications and blogs, as well as her personal blog BeautyAbility. Her work has also appeared in mainstream publications such as Nerve.com and Playgirl.