We were having tea on a patio. The day was patio perfect, sun but not to much, heat but not too much, shade and just enough. We hunkered down to talk and to people watch. The table one over was taken by a couple of guys with intellectual disabilities, one of who had Down Syndrome, who were accompanied by a staff woman.
I think sometimes those in support providing roles need to establish themselves, to others around, that they work with people with disabilities, that they are the staff, so they do things to identify themselves as staff and disidentify themselves with any possible disability. I've heard, sometimes staff say, with real annoyance, that they had been mistaken for someone with a disability when they were on a community outing. So, to avoid that absolutely horrible and soul crushing assumption from being made, they become kind of uber-staff. This one was doing so by fussing and bossing. "You sit there, and you sit there," she said, to men much older than herself, as she busied herself around. Kind of like she was a mom who had given birth fifteen years before being borne. Finally she found out what they wanted and she headed into the store to get what they wanted, she paused part way there, and said, in that staff voice we all know and used, "don't go off anywhere."
Both men had been very patient with her. I believe they knew what she was doing. I certainly did. The sat quietly looking out at the street scape for a few seconds then one glanced over at the other and when their eyes met, they started laughing. The fellow with Down Syndrome whispered to the fellow with him, "don't run off now," and his friend responded, "and don't you slop tea all over yourself." Then they laughed. She came back and busied around enough establish, for those who hadn't seen the show's opening that established her role, that she was indeed a hierarchy or two above those she sat with.
That short discussion, the recognition of staff's need to subjugate them to upgrade her status, the humour they used to defuse the situation they were in, all of these things are important. It means that these two men had developed enough of a relationship to share these moments together, to check out their perceptions, to recognize that they were in it together, to support one another through was was social demeaning behaviour on the part of the staff ... all these things, which are, of course, the faint stirring of revolution are becoming more and more common.
I'm seeing this everywhere I travel. Seeing people with disabilities begin to talk about and notice the behaviour of those around them. Forming friendships that are as much for a sense of alliance as anything else. Openly talking with each other about the behaviour of those who are around them.
If you want to radically change yourself - first, you've got to acknowledge the problem.
If you want to radically change the world - first you've got to acknowledge the problem.
Radical change, of any kinds, always begins in the same place. The recognition and acknowledgement of the problem. These two men are there. They have recognized that her behaviour was at best silly and worst insulting and they had clearly already begun a dialogue about that.
I believe that every revolution begins with small conversations about small things. In the years I have watched Vita's Self Advocacy Group grow I have seen how small conversations can turn into action and action can turn into change.
The faint stirring of revolution continued. She got back and said something I didn't hear. Then she notice them rolling their eyes at each other. She asked what they meant by that. I couldn't hear the answer, but she looked startled and annoyed.
That's the typical reaction to any minority getting 'uppity'.