Sunday, November 30, 2008

Lumped in Together

Last night, my mother and her youngest grandchild, Jasmine, was sitting in the gameroom watching Noggin, which is what they do every evening. I was sitting in the room checking my e-mail, trying to not get distracted by the entertaining, yet educational programming that was loudly being played from the television. Jasmine started commenting to her grandmother about some of the things that she was seeing on television. Although I was trying to tune them out so that I could pay close attention to what I was doing on the computer, I still heard Jasmine's little voice telling Mama about a little boy that was on television.

"Granny, that little boy is really sick, and he's blind too."

Well, since she was watching Noggin, I was trying to figure out what in the world was on television that had a little, sick, blind boy. Usually, Noggin has programming on there that is happy, light-weight, and animated, in all sense of the word. And there's nothing happy, light-weight, and animated about a sick, blind boy.

I asked my mother what Jasmine was talking about. Mama said that it was a little boy in a wheelchair that was playing with other nondisabled kids in the commercial. She said that she didn't know why Jasmine said that he was sick and blind.

I asked Jasmine why she said that the little boy was sick and blind. She began to explain to me that the little boy was in a wheelchair because he was sick. And she also stated again that the boy is also blind. I asked how she knew that he was blind. She stated that she "just knows that he is because he's in a wheelchair."

After trying to figure out what kind of logic Jasmine was using to draw that conclusion, I am left to presume that Jasmine associated the boy's disability of being in a wheelchair with my disability of blindness. She couldn't separate the disabilities. I guess in her five-year-old mind, one disability is all disabilities.

Jasmine realized that something was definitely wrong with the boy. She didn't know what to call it. So, she called it sick. And I guess she called it blind too.

Does Jasmine think I'm sick too?

Well, most likely...

And it probably has something to do with my watered down explanation ofwhy their auntie started losing her sight. Because I know they don't understand complex terms, like Glaucoma, Uveitis, and optic nerve damage, I simply tell them that I lost my sight because I
got really sick when I was a little girl, which is actually the truth. It may be a quick paraphrase of the truth, but it is indeed the truth.

I explained to the rabbit that just because the little boy was in a wheelchair does not mean that he's blind or sick, for that matter. She still didn't get it. She insisted that the boy in the wheelchair was both blind and sick, two descriptions that she probably thrusts upon anyone that she realizes is "disabled".

I suppose as my niece gets older, she will better understand disability, and she, will realize that all disability is not the same. Likewise, she will learn that disability does not mean "sick". I hope that the way I live my life will be the best tool to teach her all that she needs to know about disability and how it impacts, both children and adults.

I also pray that as I interact with individuals in the community, they will also develop better perceptions, attitudes, and information regarding disability. So often, when I come in contact with individuals at church, in the malls, at restaurants, and wherever, people assume that just because I can't see, I also can't hear. They talk loud to me, get inappropriately close to my face and exaggerate their words.

Often times, I come in contact with individuals that speak to my family, asking them questions about me, even while I'm standing there. I'm not sure if they think that my blindness qualifies me to be mute or just plain incapable of making decisions. There are some who even talk to me like I'm a five-year-old. I am left to assume that they believe that blindness also equals some type of severe learning disability. I don't know...

But what I do know is that Jasmine is not the only one guilty of lumping all disabled folks in the same barrel.

Boy, I got a lot of work to do.


The Original Wombman said...

I'm so glad I found your blog and I'm slowly reading through the whole thing. I've enjoyed your last few post immensely.

While in college, I worked as a personal assistant fp0r a J.D./M.B.A. candidate (a friend of my father) who was blind. That experience dispelled a lot of misconceptions and gave me a whole understanding of the issues and challenges folks who are blind experience. Something as simple as going to the bank . . . a whole different experience if you are blind. It gave me an appreciation and respect for people who are visually disabled. It annoyed me to no end when folks would speak to me and not to my boss even when he was standing right there or start to holler like if someone was hard of hearing. So disrespectful but then I realized that if I had not worked so closely with him, I would probably do the same things. I was that ignorant once too.

And I can agree and cosign wholeheartedly, blindness is a disability and not a sickness. I'm grateful for my experience and for finding your blog. :)

Angela L. Braden, Writer, Speaker, Professor said...

I'm glad that you found my blog too! You're welcomed here anytime. Please come back and share your perspectives.
Wishing you the best,
Angie B.

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