Disabled Life

Let’s talk about Prejudice.

So here it is the blog where I talk about prejudice towards the disabled. I guess the hardest thing about this is it’s hard to define. There aren’t really disabled hate groups, if there are they’re keeping it on the down low, but it does happen. It can be very humiliating because it usually happens in public places, in my experience.

This piece was inspired by the recent news story of a three year old being barred from a performance because of her walking frame. The attendant thought it constituted a fire hazzard and refused to let her in to the theatre. Management had to step in. They got her seated took the walker out of the theatre and returned it at the end of the show. I wonder what they do in a fire?

Prejudice towards the handicapped is called physical ism or Ableism (that seems like the reverse to me). For me it often happens with people being condescending or talking slowly to me. On the set of my film Musketeer I once had a boom op who saw me on the first day of filming ask me if I was having a good time hanging out on a set, patronising tone included. The look on his face when he found out I was the director was amazing.

When I played cricket I was my schools captain. Once again you had people looking in disbelief and you could see the other teams not taking it seriously. We ended up winning a lot more then we lost and my team also earned the school an indoor cricket title.  It wasn’t great though. You still had people assuming I was the non playing captain or if the game got close they’d protest about me having a runner or almost any concession that allowed me to play. It wasn’t a problem at the start of the game but now that they were losing there was an issue.

During one game I was told by an opponent that “You don’t belong on the pitch you should be next door.” There is a disabled home/therapy centre next to the school. I suggested an alternate storage space for his gear bag, so it was closer to his person. I got told off by a teacher from the opposing school for inappropriate language. Prompting a parent from my school to put down her book and scold said teacher. It was gold. Thank you Mrs DeGrut. In my opinion it’s most surprising when it comes from big corporations whom I won’t name. There is no point.

A lot of disabled toilets these days have electronic locks on the outside of the door. This is because of “Nefarious activities” pretty much drugs and people mating in the disabled toilets. I understand the need but last time I used one of these locked disabled toilets I had to ask someone for the code in a crowded foyer. “Sure I can open it for you.” she turns to her colleague at the other end of the counter and yells “Hey! I’ve gotta take this guy to the toilet!.”  “What?” “I’ve gotta take this guy to the toilet!” After complaining about to management I was sent an apology and various vouchers. Haven’t used the toilet there since.

Other incidents include a friend being asked what I would like when ordering in a restaurant and being asked to move three times during a performance at The Auckland Town Hall.

I had gone to a show there to support some friends performing. I got there early and was guided to a seat. The show starts. An usher then arrived with  two Able Bodied people and asked if I could move. I did. Then another late comer. There is plenty of available seating but again I am asked to move to accommodate them. On the final occasion I am seriously considering leaving the theatre. I found it absolutely unacceptable. They weren’t asking anyone else to move at all. I went from front row to on the side. I suspect that I was too nice but if you complain you’re drawing attention away from the show and I felt that was unfair to the actors.

Most of these things as you can see are small and don’t happen everyday. The problem is they can be dismissed as mis understandings not prejudice. I think that’s where the fault is. There’s no thought given to how this will effect the disabled person at the centre of it. Hell I’m getting to the end of this and I still don’t know what the solution is.

Communication I guess although you’d think common sense would prevail.


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