The problem with privilege isn’t that you are privileged so much as when you are privileged you don’t realize how much you are until you aren’t anymore — and that it is human nature to think certain things you don’t want to happen to you never will simply because it hasn’t happened yet.
Working with folks with disabilities I actually see this more often then some of you might think… someone is in an accident and suddenly acquires a disability and their whole world changes not just because they are no longer able to do some major life function, but because society treats them differently.
More then once, someone has came to me because they are having an access issue they want me to fix…. one time a man who discovered it is possible to be walking unaided one day and unable to transfer out of a wheelchair the next came to me asking me to do something to fix the problem of lack of ramp access at his work. He told me adamantly something needed to be done about this issue. He shared his frustration nobody at work got this though he knew there were laws that dealt with this thing and protected people from this kind of discrimination. The kind of discrimination he never imagined he would experience.
I agreed there were laws in place to protect him, but told him the truth that the laws only protected him to the degree that people were willing to enforce and protect the law… I explained to him that was why it was important to advocate and educate.
He shared his frustration believing there should have already been a ramp in the building. He wanted to know why I had not done more — why I had not pushed harder for the ramp in the first place so this would not have been a problem for him — after all wasn’t that what I did?
Here I had to stop him and ask him why hadn’t he done something? He explained he hadn’t because before he didn’t realize it was that big a deal — because he had always assumed if he needed something like that his business would take care of it. He told me it wasn’t his job to do something about it, but he knew it was mine because I had a disability and I had approached him before his accident pointing out the access issue.
I knew it wasn’t something he wanted to hear, but it was something he needed to hear so I was frank with him. I told him it was just as much his responsibility as it was mine to advocate for accessibility in his workplace. In fact, he had a greater responsibility because it was his workplace. I told him: Right now you wish I had done more to insist your workplace had been accessible, but when I approached you on the matter you were the one who chose not to do something when you had more power and authority to do something about it.
He agreed he wished he had done more in the past when he was more listened too. He wished he had not spent his time trying to prove to me did not need access. He said he was sorry, and he was because he knew it was partially his actions which resulted in his work being less accessible than it could have been.
Please be tolerant of people advocating for the rights of others — even if they are advocating for things you don’t think apply to you, because some day they just might.
Nobody is perfect, but I am not nobody and neither are you — thank you for your support, and your continued support.
Sometimes life doesn’t work out according to plan. We all get sidetracked and sideswiped at times. When Jodi James was killed in a car accident I felt sideswiped. For a while I was lost and confused. I couldn’t understand how such a horrible thing could happen to such a wonderful person. It was shocking to be reminded how fragile life was and how quickly things can change sometimes without any warning at all.
Fast forward to 2011. Two years later, I would lose another important person in my life – my mother. My mother had been battling cancer for some time. In fact, one of the reasons I published Unclipped Wings when I did was to be sure she saw it. I couldn’t stop or fix my mother’s cancer, but I did publish Unclipped Wings in time for her to see it while she could still enjoy it.
A small thing I know, but sometimes the most important things we can ever do are the small things, like connection and love. My mother did not make it to Thanksgiving or Christmas and Unclipped Wings did not cure here cancer, but she was never alone and she knew that;
Many of you have read Unclipped Wings and you have shared Unclipped Wings with others. I am constantly hearing from people who say they normally don’t like poetry, but can really relate and see themselves in Unclipped Wings. What a compliment.
It is nice to be reminded that the little things we do make a difference, especially when sometimes the big things are out of our control.
I am glad you have enjoyed Unclipped Wings, and I appreciate your support.
Unclipped Wings isn’t about always being perfect. It is about being able to be who we are despite the challenges we all face. It is my sincerest hope that you will join me and soar on Unclipped Wings.
Please share with all the wonderful mothers out there.
May you soar on unclipped wings,
~ Ramona Harvey
Today is Blog Against Disablism Day 2011. All across the web bloggers are dedicating their blogs today to the topic of Disablism to help raise awareness. I am no exception.
What is Disabilism?
Simply put it is discrimination against people with disabilities.
I would like to say that this is something that rarely happens, but unfortunately it happens all the time. Yesterday a friend of mine was denied access to a restaurant because she had a service animal and many of you have heard about the boy in Texas who was not allowed to participate in communion because he has cerebral palsy…
But it has happened to me also a store owner refused to sell me and a friend of mine a soda. We had money but the store owner would not take our money…. a stranger behind us line was nice enough to take our money and buy the drink on our behalf.
But those are just a few examples, stuff like that doesn’t happen always and not everyone is like that, right? The quality of life for people with disabilities is better now. Thankfully we have laws like the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) that protects people with disabilities…
I agree. We have come a long way and people with disabilities have had better access to education and other resources they didn’t have access to in the past. We are a lot more unlikely as a whole to accept the blatant discrimination of not selling a soda to someone with a disability as okay.
But we have a long way to go. Not just in terms of physical access barriers, but systemic biases which are harder to see and combat It is because of the systemic biases that grass roots organizations like ADAPT, which is in Washington today, exists. ADAPT is advocating for the people with disabilities to have the choice to live in the community instead of being forced unnecessarily into often more costly nursing homes.
Disablism does exist, but the problem we have now is that people have seen how far we have come and they think the problem is fixed. We do have laws like the ADA designed to protect the rights of people with disabilities – but that is just a first step. It is Because disablism still exist that we need to work to make sure that these laws are not only enforced but protected. We have come a long way but we still have a long way to go.
People have been asking me: who is Jodi James? And why did you dedicate your book to her? Next week April 20th, 2011 there is a book signing at Purdue North Central in her honor from 11am – 2pm. I thought it would be appropriate to take a moment to answer that question. The picture below is of Jodi and I at the beach on my birthday. It was one of the best days of my life. Below this intro is something I wrote on the day Jodi died. This blog post is going tobe a bit long but I am not apologizing. Jodi would not.
Long Live Jodi James the woman who always had my back, and still does. A woman I trusted completely. I have been forever changed by both her life and her death.
She was only 38 when she was killed in a car accident. She died the day after we last talked, and a week before we were going to get together to celebrate our birthdays and the fact that we had both survived another year. We were supposed to go to the aquarium in Chicago, but instead I went to her funeral wearing an ADAPT shirt, just like I promised her I would – the day I promised her I would not let her die in a nursing home. I kept that promise. I just wish she had made me work harder to keep it. We both thought we had more time.
She did not die in a nursing home, but instead while doing the thing she loved most – driving. I understand her love for driving because it is something we both shared. She loved the freedom of it, and she loved the fact that when she was behind the wheel nobody saw her chair or her disability. She was just like everyone else on the road.