Interesting. Frustrating. Eye Opening. Exciting. Different. Challenging.
These words and more describe the life journeys – or possibly adventures – we experience as people with disabilities. What is YOUR perspective? Do the well-meaning descriptors “courageous” or “inspiring” cause you to roll your eyes? Have you played the role of “educator” during a teachable moment? At the risk of sounding dramatic, has an interaction or experience left a profound impact on your life? Perhaps you left the imprint on someone else…
Welcome to the inaugural reader commentary, 360 Perspectives, where YOU have the opportunity to share your experience or perspective related to disability. Events, encounters, experiences…the moments that make us go, “Hmmm” or “what the…heck?”
We are grateful to James Foley, our first 360 Perspectives contributor.
By James Foley
It’s 9:15 pm on a cool March evening at the casino. Time to let off a little steam. I trot around looking for a blackjack table to join.
The elegant 30-something man in black ambles up very close to my right ear to ask me how I’m doing tonight.
“I’m fine,” I reply. The dapper man in black says he’s going to have to ask me to leave.
“Why is that?” I ask, more surprised than annoyed.
“You look intoxicated,” he says.
“Nope,” I reply, “two beers doesn’t do it for me.
“You’re gonna have to leave.” Less friendly and more insistent now. The man in black moves his arm as if to restrain this unruly drunkard. He’s dealt with this scene 1,000 times before…
But he has not. I am a 48-year-old man trying to enjoy himself while giving the world a close look at spastic cerebral palsy.
I explain that I have cerebral palsy and that the disability slows my speech and motor skills. My voice lowering a bit, I tell the man in black that I’d be happy to leave the building provided that I could speak to the general manager first.
His tone changed. He said he would be right back, shot off toward the back of the building and was gone. I should have called the management of the casino to let them know of my disappointment at the way I’d been misjudged. But I did nothing.
That night I was haunted by my sisters and brothers with disabilities who are prejudged each day. People like Andrew Farrell, a 19-year-old man with autism in Ohio, verbally eviscerated by rapper 50 Cent in May for appearing to be on drugs when he was simply pushing a luggage cart as he does every day at his airport job.
I think things can get better faster if we with disabilities and our allies commit to responding firmly and publicly to incidents where we see ignorance, whether authentic or chosen, clouding how persons with disabilities are seen and addressed.
We want to hear from YOU! Perspectives, opinions, observations, viewpoints…bring them on! Submit your perspective in 10 – 350 words.
Reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org.