Victory!

Today there was a great Victory. Not just for me but for others with animals that are their helpmates. Service animals have always been controversial with in the doctor’s office. I have had to change doctors a few times given the responses, some places just refuse to accommodate your needs and when asked they would rather be reported for an ADA violation than bothering with reasonable accommodation. Today after my appointment I was told I couldn’t bring my service cat back in. I asked to speak to the person who made the decision and pulled out my well worn copy of the law. I realized this copy is the one I used last time a doctor’s office discriminated immediately, there was highlighting on the portions about medical offices.

I asked the why, and I was told something new. This office does allergy shots and the risk of exposure for other patients is a concern. I asked if we could compromise which startled the office manager. It actually made her freeze her eyes wide with shock. Compromise? She asked what I would suggest so using the ADA as an outline I pointed out that I sometimes cannot even get out the door without her, but I do not want others sick. Sprite will wear her most covering outfit when we go in and I will call in advance so I can go straight into the office where I will see my doctor. This was our compromise. This allows me to have my needs met but does not infringe on the rights of others.

I expected a huge battle, but instead I was given victory. I left a copy of the law with the office, and explained what each part meant to the office manager as well. She hadn’t really ever bothered learning the ADA laws and therefore was unaware she had been about to violate my rights. I did remind her ignorance is never a viable reason in the court room, but is instead the fool’s gambit. I said it as nicely as I could of course. Victory, glorious victory. I feel more secure going to the office now, I feel respected, I feel human, and I feel alive.

In other news, I started with my newest caregiver today. The previous person was so great but that partnership is at an end. She has moved on to another client who speaks her language fluently, so her needs are being met. The new caregiver and William are already attached, and she is going to see if she can take him home. William may have a home. She understands his needs, and is willing to make the commitment. All feels right in the world, though it is a bit rainy today. Oh well, it couldn’t be a perfect day… that might be asking just a bit too much!

Oh, and if you want some great audio entertainment… check out Pendant Audio. They do radio shows! I know that not everyone is into this sort of thing… yet their work is really high quality. I am currently catching up on my Earth-P radio listening. The shows are short and make great waiting room time killers for those days when you just can’t read.

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The Cliche of Anger

I am tired, in massive pain, and yet I still am riding on the waves of fulfillment. I worked an entire week straight. I am taking a few more days to get back to my standard however, and reminded myself why I do not work in a traditional manner. I would have been fired today for being unable to wear standard clothing for one, and my attitude for another. Every action I take, every interaction I am bogged down by references to the past, lessons, and reminders. I hear my mother’s voice most clearly, and that is not something I welcome. I want to be an individual not the product of my family.

I wasn’t going to post until tomorrow but I was reading a few pages over at Womanist Musings. The proprietor of Womanist Musings has recently outed herself as being amid the disabled. She is beginning to run into the challenges of being suddenly unwelcome, invisible, and at times hated for merely existing. Today one of the commenters told her that she should start a civil rights movement, ignoring the fact that the disabled community has been pulling for equal rights for as long as other civil rights movements have been in effect. Before we go on, I want to remind you my dear reader that every single civil rights movement hasn’t ended, and that the fight for equality is on going no matter what your ism is. This reader seemed to think that a few protests fix everything.

This ignores the protests in New York, the individuals who do sacrifice their energy and at times sanity to try and force businesses to comply with the laws, and it ignores the fact that there are those who came before you and I. This is an erasure of our history. I responded with snideness and sarcasm, ignoring for the few moments it took to suggest a hacksaw so she could remove her legs as “easily” as I can get off of my scooter, the voice of my mother. “All disabled people are angry, they think they have rights.” I am aware that it is the events of today that shape the memories that seem to nitpick at us. Before I was disabled my sexuality was most often the harbinger of a Mommy Memory. “Bisexuals are selfish, they just want to have sex with as many people as possible.” Every time I went to flirt with a woman or a man, I heard something like that.

The myth of anger is just that, a myth. It erases the happy moments with friends and family, it erases the moments where competent and open minded people realize that everyone has rights. The myth of anger is often used to subjugate. Stop being angry, so that I can continue to oppress you. That is what I hear. The expectation that an entire group of people must never feel one emotion is ridiculous yet this is foisted on women of color, the disabled, homosexuals, and countless other oppressed groups, all to control us. Anger is forbidden.

Many times when I am smiling, I am told, “This inaccessible area will be fixed soon, we swear!” The tone is always frantic, that hint of “Oh god she will be mad that we haven’t done this yet.” It doesn’t matter that I am smiling and just nod and say, “Great, thanks for letting me know.” The fear of my anger, which is some how more toxic than their anger or fear is there. I still don’t understand it, but, I see this often. The times when I am angry, I am also not heard. It’s enough for me to want to go back to trying to be Super Cripple, but, I won’t do that.

My anger is valid. Your anger is valid. Anger is not a reason to oppress, discriminate, or subjugate. Anger is not an excuse to not build the ramp in an accessible manner, and anger is not an excuse to try to “just get rid of” someone. I am tired today, and I am trying to seem reasonable. My mind is far from reasonable. I am in truth alone, and am having a small tantrum every time I need to get up to move. My fiance forgot to feed the cats, which merited an hour of sitting there whining about how I wasn’t sure if I could do it, I can’t bend, and their bowls are on the floor.

It wasn’t anger that had me make a really big mess trying to feed them either. That was love. They were hungry so I fed them, without bending. (Sorry honey, but the kitties have to eat too!) It won’t be anger that I let him know he forgot either, but amusement. Every emotion that I have is not anger. The lessons that our parents teach us, may shape what we see but it is the choice that I made in my first experience with disability as an adult that showed me otherwise. I chose to not see anger.

It’s really that simple. Demeaning an entire group of people does cause anger. If you fear our anger so much, stop discriminating. If you come near me right this second and discriminate I will show you anger, but I won’t run you down with my scooter. That’d hurt me too, and you just aren’t worth my time or pain.

To my friends, allies, and fellow disabled persons, don’t forget that every moment that we are alive is the revolution for our people. Every time we are seen out of our homes, with our assistance equipment, service animals, and even having issues, this is our revolution. VIVA LA REVOLUCION! Free my people!

Personal Space

Before I set into writing the latest post, which proves of all things I am still alive and kicking I have a few updates. First, the biopsy came back, and I do not have cancer. Second, I just painted seven paintings in five days. My hands are sore. Why would I paint seven paintings in a week? One was for fun, six were for a contest. I really want to win, but, only time will tell if I actually do. I am certain a few of you will want to see these pictures. The contest was run by Overground EIC, and as I cannot draw yet, I used their line art. The seventh picture was drawn by a local comic book artist named Paul Ziomek. He’s a really nice guy too. So, here is a link to my gallery on DeviantArt and just in case you want to support artists who are local (to me) here is a link to 7000BC, a local comic book group. They have some really cool stories.

I am actually hoping to start a weekly web comic with someone, so if you know any artists who want to audition, let me know. I will be hosting a contest soon. I already have a few scripts, and it doesn’t take too much time for me to write. In fact, I might even update the blog more often if I do that.

Now, here is the actual blog post for today:

Personal Space:

The issue of Personal Space comes up frequently when we are children. We are taught boundaries, we are taught that we cannot just touch strangers. I was taught this at least, and reminded often that my own space was worthless, but I had best not encroach on anyone else’s territory.

As an adult this was the norm until I started using assistive devices. It was then that I learned another facet of ableism included touching these devices, leaning on them, and even hitting them. Would you ever touch a person’s purse? The answer is usually not without permission. Why is it alright then, for people to smack my chair, try and take the key, or even tell me just how cute it is that I use a wheelchair?

You are probably confused by their actions as much as I am, and you also probably experience versions of this as well. I am not sure why it has become the norm for people to tell me that my wheelchair is cute. I understand the perspective of another person who is shopping for a chair deciding mine is really cool and asking me questions, that is perfectly reasonable, and is something I have done myself. I understand a child needing to ask me what I am driving a miniature care for. I do not understand walking up to someone and smacking the top of their chair and telling them how cute it is that they have a sunshade on their wheelchair.

This happened at a Walgreen’s that is just a block away from my house. My Person and I were there, getting some snacks and were going to rent movies after. I was in glee as I had found lotion I could use with minimal reaction, my arms stayed red for only an hour and eyeliner that I was not allergic to, could use properly, and is hard to obtain. This Walgreen’s carries authentic Egyptian Kohl. I am so excited by this that I actually spent all of my extra money on make up. We were about to check out when the Cashier gushed at me, “Oh how cute your chair is.” I looked at her and told her, “Excuse me?” She repeated it. Then, another employee smacks my sunshade and tells me it’s cool. I decided then and there to put a stop to this.

“Do you really think it’d be alright to smack someone’s cane? Do you think I would go around telling you that your crutches are cute if you broke your leg or your cast is cute? Don’t patronize me, don’t touch me or my assistive devices. I happen to think it’s a shame I no longer get to walk through your store. I happen to think it’s a shame you think that acting like an idiot is going to make me want to shop here. If you touch my chair again I will report you to the management, and if you,” Gesturing to the other person, “Speak to me like a child again, I will also report you to the management. This is not how you treat a customer, or any other human. I am sure you think less of me for saying this, but I think much less of you for behaving in an inappropriate manner.” The woman looked as if she would cry, and the young man who had thwapped my chair had backed up considerably. It took a lot of will power to not curse at them. I wanted to. Instead the woman said, “But it really is cute.”

My person knows I dislike advocating. I don’t know anyone who really enjoys it or wants to spend all their time arguing with people about their own right to exist, but, he has accepted that I will and must. He also has accepted that at times, he must as well. He spoke up then, “Don’t patronize her. Trust me, you don’t want to continue down this path. It’s not a threat, it’s just a warning from a fellow Walgreens Employee, that she knows her rights, and you are infringing on them.” He used to work for Walgreen’s, and as a result I know that the staff are taught to be courteous. I am certain that these two people have never really had to interact with a disabled person.

I am not proud of having to put them in their place or making sure that they feel a little bit less than but, I am still reeling with confusion at their actions. It has been almost a week but I cannot figure it out. This isn’t the first time people have told me just how adorable it is that I can shop, or function in society. Each time I have explained, to the best of my ability and as calmly as I can. I have also learned that it is alright to show anger. Any ‘normal’ or ‘regular’ or able bodied person would be angry if I told them how cute their flaws were, or how cute it was that they were absolutely stupid. I am learning that I have the right to anger.

I will go back to this Walgreen’s. It is a very nice store, and they actually measure their aisle displays for accessibility. I caught them in the act, the manager was correcting an employee on the placement of a standee that held some make up, “You can’t put this here. People will be unable to pass.” The employee walked around it, “I can get past it just fine.” The manager then said, “What about people who can’t walk or use a walker? How about this, if you don’t move it, using this measuring tape for a 28 inch radius, you lose your job. I don’t want anyone to sue me over the ADA or anything like that.” He added something else too, “Oh and what about customer service? It’s gotta be a pain in the (censored) to have to ask for help to reach a bottle of lotion.”

I hadn’t had to advocate to them, but I was watching. I was paying attention. I know that the management at this Walgreens cares. If when I return this patronization happens again, I will bring them into it. I will also offer to train their employees. The only reason I did not have to fight them more was that I had left Sprite the Service Cat at home. She wasn’t feeling well and I wanted to go out.

It was still a lovely afternoon, but, it left me chewing over the concequences of their actions and my reactions. I am proud to state that I did not punch the man who touched my chair. I almost did, but I managed to catch my impulse in time, and used my words instead. I have been having a lot of trigger issues with men and my chair lately. They come up behind me and I want to run them down to make them go away. I haven’t given in yet, but, when the strange males who trigger me then touch my chair, all bets are off!

I haven’t much else to say on this matter, beyond, advocate for your personal space. I didn’t at first. When I used the walker and my abusive roommates would pile heavy objects on it so that they didn’t have to carry them, or when they kept dumping things into my chair so I couldn’t use it when it was brand new, I at first kept my mouth shut. I was so used to staying silent so that they wouldn’t punish me or decide to expose me to even more allergens. At first I let people do things like this out of the house too, because I was afraid. I feel less fear when I advocate. I also worry at times that I am being too sharp, too harsh. There have to be times when I am the gentle advocate, and there are. I worry over it even when I am putting in extra effort to not hurt people’s feelings despite their refusal to let me have my basic human rights. It sounds preposterous when I say it or write it, but it feels right to try for extra kindness.

I am also learning that my Autism may factor into my need to not be touched. I have always been extremely sensitive to touch and texture. I like to control what things feel like around me. I once could not adopt a very adorable and well behaved puppy because his fur felt too stiff. I found him a good home but, I couldn’t cope with the texture. Sometimes texture can even cause nightmares. This adds to my unwillingness to let strangers touch me. I don’t hug people often. I do make sure to touch my Person, but sometimes it takes massive amounts of effort. He is understanding when it comes to my reticence, but I also want to make sure he has nothing that he wants or needs for.

What about you? When you advocate does it help your anxiety level or make it worse? Do people infringe on your personal space? This goes for those with sight issues or hearing issues, do people at times touch you just to try and make you function the way they want? What are your reactions? If you are an Autistic, do you also have touch issues? What forms of contact ableism are you familiar with?

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