As usual, I was stumbling with all the time I shouldn’t be wasting, I was lucky enough to stumble on a blog by a man who has worked with people with disabilities for over 30 years. Upon reading this post (attached below), I was compelled to continue reading other posts and discovered that his blogs really touched me in a way because our viewpoints were very similar in a great deal of ways.
So without further ado, here’s the link to the blog: http://davehingsburger.blogspot.com/
I was ecstatic to find this, no words the smile that was brought onto my face when I started reading this blog. Here is a man who has worked with people with disabilities, as well as identifies with the LGBTQ community, and it really gives me hope for my own future. He is from Toronto, just like me, and really, words can’t describe what I’m feeling as I’m writing about this.
I really wish that one day in the near future, I would be able to have the opportunity to talk to Dave Hingsburger (the author of this blog) to learn more about what I can look forward to in my future.
So this was the article that I stumbled on:
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Down Syndrome, Off The Clock
They make, if not the best, a very serviceable eggplant parmigiana. We don’t go there often, but when we do, we each always get lunch from the same vendors. As they are at the start of the food court, we grab a table right at the entrance. It’s perfect for people watching, eavesdropping and is almost always the source for amusement. The parmigiana comes from the vendor right at the start of the court, Joe gets soup from the vendor next door but one. I grabbed a table just two in, with a chair removed, there is enough room for me to pull in and be out of the way.
We’d just sat down for lunch when we both heard that pronunciation of the word, ‘Mother’ that communicates so much. ‘Muhhhhh-therrrrrr’. I glanced up and saw a frustrated and harried woman, carrying packages from the Bay and her son, a young man with Down Syndrome who was in his pre-teens.
Of course, I listened.
(Realize that I would have listened irregardless of the boy’s Down Syndrome. I would have listened if it was a couple having a spat, if it was a businessman mumbling to himself, if it was someone having an animated conversation on a cell phone. That’s what I do.)
So, aside, aside, I listened.
It seems that the mother wanted to go with him to get his food and then have him go with her to get her food, then they would eat together. Son, thought this was silly. Why doesn’t she get hers, he get his, then they meet for lunch. She did an admirable job of keeping herself calm. I did an admirable job of just listening, not judging. Who knew what kind of experiences she’d had that led to this arrangement? They had been standing arguing and just before she moved again towards the court he said something that had a profound impact on me as a listener and she as a mother.
‘Trouble is you think I have Down Syndrome all the time and I don’t,’ he said with real frustration.
She stopped again, ‘What?’
‘I only have Down Syndrome sometimes, when I’m learning something new or if the words are real hard. I don’t have Down Syndrome the rest of the time when I’m doing what I know how to do.’
‘And you don’t have Down Syndrome now?’ she asked.
‘No, I know how to get my lunch, I buy my lunch at school all the time. I don’t have someone with me all the time you know.’ he was frustrated, he didn’t even realize he’d said something of real importance, to me and to his mother.
‘So,’ she continued looking at him hard, ‘you don’t feel like you have Down Syndrome all the time.’
‘No, most times I don’t even think about it,’ he said.
She said, her tiredness seemed to be gone, ‘Go ahead, we’ll find a table after we’ve got our food.’
They disappeared from view.
Joe and I looked at each other. I said to him, ‘That kid should teach classes to parents of kids with Down Syndrome.’
On our way home, chatting about just stuff, I realized that at that moment I didn’t feel disabled, it wasn’t part of my consciousness. I knew that everyone saw me in my wheelchair but what they saw, what they thought, didn’t impact what I felt. I’m only disabled sometimes, when things are out of my reach, when aisles are too narrow, when a curb blocks my way. The rest of the time I’m just – me.
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This post really made me think, why do we automatically assume that people with visible disabilities or even the elderly are incapable of caring for themselves? Why do we interact with them any differently than we do people who we perceive as “normal”? If children have to learn from adults, why can’t we learn basic social skills and respect for people from them?