Confessions time – I have been following this online thread recently where they discuss all things disabled blah, blah, blah however one of the recurring themes is attitude. No surprise but it got me to thinking last night. I remember giving my first “attitude adjustment” to someone when I was fifteen years old.
This was in the sixties and attitudes were very different. Up to this point about the only physically disabled you saw in the community were war vets so the concept of integration was only applied to new immigrants. Integrating the disabled (not going to worry about labels here) was something the #veterans set the table for. With the
upswell of polio kids in the late 50’s and 60’s there became a need to incorporate these kids with disabilities in all aspects of life. “Mainstreaming” seemed the easiest way to go. Those that couldn’t would be “warehoused” in nice long term care centres. I am not denigrating “mainstreaming” or “warehousing” it was a different time and it was done with good conscience. However attitudes evolve and changing attitudes promoted change and it is really awareness that changes attitude. Back then the idea of building a more inclusive society was not even a concept simply because the breadth of disabling conditions was so much narrower than it is today.
We were now out there in numbers (albeit small but a beginning). It was only natural people would be curious and since Google didn’t exist sometimes just uninformed questions seemed the best way to go. I walked on crutches so I was pretty obvious (not that it mattered to me). I did a lot of my schooling in the Children’s Hospital however I did spend some time in the city school system. No such thing as accessibility or inclusion back then, you just did. So when I wasn’t in the hospital I was pretty involved with the community sometimes to the chagrin of my parents but that is a different issue. I do know in 1965 I was in the community school.
I know I did grade 9 at Colonel Irvine Junior High in Calgary. At that time in Alberta every student had to write, what were called, Grade 9 Departmental exams. If you failed these you may not have been able to get into high school until you had mastered the exams. Anyway I had just finished my exam and a group of us were headed over to the local cafe, Ken’s Cafe. Ken’s was at one end of a small strip mall and there was a local grocery store, Tomboys, at the other end. I only mention Tomboys because a brand new Safeway had just opened up right across the street. My mother had taken a job at the Safeway as a meat wrapper and I had stopped there to get fifty cents from her so I could get chips and a coke at Ken’s. After all we were celebrating and fifty cents went a long way back then.
While my mother was giving me the money her supervisor came out of the freezer area and my mom said “This is my son Terry”. Now this was 1965 but still, this supervisor patted me on the head and asked my mother “How retarded is he?”. Well before my mother could even get into her explanation I had dropped to the floor and bit his ankle.
While my mother went from explanatory to horrified I looked up and him and said “Does that answer your question?” at which point I jumped back up on my crutches and left. After all I was still on that chips and coke mission and I had a feeling if I stuck around there allowing the shock to wear off my mother would have taken back the fifty cents.
I believe my point was made but these days child protection would be called by someone texting on their smart phone and not noticing you coming around the corner by the meat department, times they are a changing… My attitude adjustments are much more subtle these days but come with a long history of intertwining wit with sarcasm.
Easy living hint – always park your car so that your door is a buffer between you and the slant of the parking spot. Nothing like having your wheelchair take off on you during a transfer and all you can think is “damn it my cell phone is under the seat” as you balance precariously with one hand on the door frame and the other still on the drivers seat.
Just one man’s opinion.
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