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The Deal With Disability: "For god's sake, treat adults like adults"

 

Last month, a 26-year-old woman known only on her site as Eva began posting video blogs about the way people treat her. Her reactions are displayed in the writing that accompanies the videos, there is barely any dialogue to the videos and rarely is Eva herself shown in them. Eva has Cerebral Palsy, she cannot speak and she gets around in a power wheelchair. Mounted to her wheelchair is a video camera, which she says is always recording, that captures some rather disappointing interactions that she has with people who either ignore her entirely or patronize her to the point of frustration. While her reactions are not always evident in the videos themselves, the paragraphs she writes get her point across loud and clear.

On "The Deal With Disability", Eva's interactions are usually convoluted with people who simply do not know how to deal with her. In one, she is mistaken for a male child. In others, she is ignored entirely. Most of her "interactions" are based around her observing conversations between who she is trying to interact with and her aide, who people seem to engage with because they can have a conversation with her. Her frustrations are conveyed, as I mentioned, in her writing. Never short on humor and always intelligent and heartfelt, Eva says, "There is rarely a normal encounter. By normal I mean just your standard 'Oh, excuse me' or 'Hi, how are you?' or even, 'Would you like milk in your coffee?'" Her blog serves to educate the rest of us through the ignorance of others.

For example, this little gem from Starbucks:

Another facet of Eva's life is the fact that she identifies as queer. Having recently received a BA in gender studies from Occidental College, Eva travels around and lectures on gender and disability issues. The prejudice she receives, then, being called "mister" or served a dose of near baby-talk, is harmful to her many-fold. In turn, with her unique form of activism, that makes her ultimate message pretty universal to all marginalized groups of society: "...if people treated me like everyone else they might realize that I am indeed just like everyone else". Like I said, loud and clear. 

 

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Comments

9 comments have been made. Post a comment.

Wow... this is powerful. And

Wow... this is powerful. And very important. I hope it gets a lot of publicity, this is the kind of stuff we really need to hear. Definitely going to look into this.

LOVE this

Yeah. I have a friend/co-worker who has cerebral palsy and uses an augmentative communication device like Eva. She tells me people pat her on the head all the time. She's 40 years old! For crying out loud! I love how in one video at the vitamin store, the cashier gives her a "big, special wave" goodbye. So funny. It boggles the mind how the simplest thing in the world- treating people with respect- is so difficult. Thanks, Bitch, for bringing us stories like this.

Agreed

I, too, love this post. I looked at Eva's website and I love it. It's easy for us to agree that people treat her like a kid. But I have a thought. The majority of us are not around 'people like Eva' for lack of a better phrase, the majority of our time. We are/were not taught how to act around them. They may be mentally like everyone else, but our society bases treatment off looks. In our society, disabled means different and bad and not human. We'd all like to think we'd treat those 'differently abled' like adults, but would we really? When faced with someone who is not like you, do you really know how to treat them or act around them? Just as most of us do not come in contact with people with artificial limbs or hooks for limbs on a regular basis, how can we not stare? We're not used to it and we don't know how to act. Not meant to offend anyone. Just a thought. I know I'm guilty of unwillingly feeling a little weird and unsure how to act when faced with someone who is disabled.

re: jennifer's comment

caveat - i am making the assumption that you are able-bodied, based on the "us vs. them" language in your post.

i think the point eva's trying to make with her blog is the exact opposite of what you said here:

"We are/were not taught how to act around them."

the point is that "we" (by this i think you mean saying able-bodied people, and not all of us identify as such) actually *are* taught how to treat people, and the mistreatment (mild term, i should say "oppression") occurs because disAbled folks aren't seen as people. the thing is, able-bodied folks *are* taught how to treat disAbled peeps, and that's to do so differently than you would anyone else, which is the whole problem. in fact, eva puts it very succinctly when she says this:

"The funnier thing would be if people treated me like everyone else they might realise that I am indeed just like everyone else."

perhaps it would be helpful for you to reflect on why you find disAbility unfamiliar. for one thing, it could be that your definition of disAbility needs some re-thinking; in particular, it would be helpful to not reduce it to pertain only to folks with visible disAbilities. furthermore, you may want to consider your limited exposure (you wrote "Just as most of us do not come in contact with people with artificial limbs or hooks for limbs on a regular basis, how can we not stare?") to be symptomatic of the fact that most of the western world hasn't exactly been constructed with disAbled folks in mind and therefore the spaces you may occupy may not even be accessible to these folks.

my final point is in response to this:

"When faced with someone who is not like you, do you really know how to treat them or act around them?"

yes, i do. i treat "them" as i would any other human being (i.e. respectfully).

and to eva - congrats your (very well-structured and interesting) blog! i look forward to more posts.

re: jennifer's comment

caveat - i am making the assumption that you are able-bodied, based on the "us vs. them" language in your post.

i think the point eva's trying to make with her blog is the exact opposite of what you said here:

"We are/were not taught how to act around them."

the point is that "we" (by this i think you mean saying able-bodied people, and not all of us identify as such) actually *are* taught how to treat people, and the mistreatment (mild term, i should say "oppression") occurs because disAbled folks aren't seen as people. the thing is, able-bodied folks *are* taught how to treat disAbled peeps, and that's to do so differently than you would anyone else, which is the whole problem. in fact, eva puts it very succinctly when she says this:

"The funnier thing would be if people treated me like everyone else they might realise that I am indeed just like everyone else."

perhaps it would be helpful for you to reflect on why you find disAbility unfamiliar. for one thing, it could be that your definition of disAbility needs some re-thinking; in particular, it would be helpful to not reduce it to pertain only to folks with visible disAbilities. furthermore, you may want to consider your limited exposure (you wrote "Just as most of us do not come in contact with people with artificial limbs or hooks for limbs on a regular basis, how can we not stare?") to be symptomatic of the fact that most of the western world hasn't exactly been constructed with disAbled folks in mind and therefore the spaces you may occupy may not even be accessible to these folks.

my final point is in response to this:

"When faced with someone who is not like you, do you really know how to treat them or act around them?"

yes, i do. i treat "them" as i would any other human being (i.e. respectfully).

and to eva - congrats your (very well-structured and interesting) blog! i look forward to more posts.

This is a great post! And

This is a great post! And her blog is very interesting and enlightening. I'll be visiting it often!
I want to add that it isn't only people who are visibly differently-abled that receive that sort of patronizing treatment. I spend a lot of time with people who are Deaf, and when we go out in public, people tend to treat my Deaf friends like they can't understand English, yell in their faces, and speak painfully slowly and in small words.
Service staff often ignore them outright, claiming that they don't know how to communicate with them...so they don't try. Service staff simply speak to whoever in the group is hearing. It's really pathetic.
Oh and it's really funny when people try to use gestures. Some people just flail and yell. And they think my Deaf friends are the slow ones. :P

Please, for the love of

Please, for the love of garp, do not use the term 'differently abled' to referred to all disabled persons. I don't know who came up with that term, but it isn't one that I nor any of my peers identifies with.

I'm a cane-wielding woman who suffers from chronic pain, and my disability has yet to grant me any special powers. It seems to get its kicks out of screwing me up and restricting my ability to have a life. Therefore, I am disabled, because I suffer from an -impairment-. I do not have telepathy, the ability to light things on fire with my mind -- none of that. I have a disability, an inability to live like an able-bodied person does, and using language like 'differently abled' is an attempt to deny the beast that I battle every day.

EVA

EVA YOU ARE AWESOME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

i've followed her pet adventures

where is her pitbull she wanted to owner train?
I've seen parts of her other life struggles on pet-themed communites on live journal.

she said she wanted to adopt a pitbull puppy from a shelter and train it -herself- by herself alone. got a lot of gup for it to.