Thursday, September 2, 2010

Disability Awareness

A friend, whose brother has Down Syndrome, sent me this video. The truth is I don't like the premise of it- Actors being rude and abusive to a worker with Down Syndrome (also an actor) in a grocery store, in order to see if other people would stand up for him or just stand by and not say anything. I am not a fan of setting people up like that and submitting this young man with Down Syndrome to all that abuse, even if it was technically just an act.
Not surprisingly, many people looked uncomfortable but very few actually took initiative and confronted the abuser. The video definitely brings home the message that there is still a lot of work to be done to educate people about individuals with disabilities. And that this hostility and/or indifference is something my son may have to face one day. I only know one thing- it made me cry. What do you think?


  1. Hm, provocative. Very sad. Can I venture a guess that people don't encounter poor treatment of people with disabilities (not to THIS degree) very often? Probably most of the people who were set up to think this was real went away and were tortured by it for hours, and resolved to stand up for people with disabilities in the future.

    That happened to me once, on the bus: there was a man in a wheelchair wanting to load onto our bus during rush hour, and the driver was very impatient and loudly, embarrassingly verbal about how the man "will make him late for his schedule" and "is supposed to ride in non peak hours" and a few other rude things. No one on the bus said anything to the driver but we all were extra polite to the man in the wheelchair afterwards--and the encounter was over so fast it was hard to know what to do. I resolved to speak up the next time I saw ill treatment of a person with a disability like that. It was shock more than anything that kept me quiet, I think. I'm not one to sit by...It was also inexperience with that type of prejudicial situation. Which is maybe good? That we don't see abuse or mistreatment often enough to have formulated a plan as to how to tackle it.
    My $0.02

  2. You make some good points, Melissa. It could be that people were just too shocked to respond in the moment. And one woman said she was concerned the woman would unleash all that anger on her, which is understandable. I certainly hope you are right that these scenarios don't happen so often but the reality is that it DOES happen and we should be thinking, how we would react if it happened to us.
    What was interesting is that most of the people who did step in were the ones who had personal relationships with individuals with disabilities. Which proves the point that there needs to be more education and advocacy about developmental delays, because when people know more, they may be able to see the personand not just the disability.
    Btw, I need to get in touch w you abt the knitted item I owe you. Email me the best way to reach you.

  3. It's true that when people know more, they are better prepared to step in and defend those with disabilities. But I don't agree that it's a matter of not seeing the person, in the vast majority of cases. Maybe I believe too well of humanity? Maybe life in NY is different enough than life in my small city in Canada that makes me think differently of peoples' intentions and sense of personal responsibility for the well being of others.
    Another thing I thought of just now is the fact that we generally don't employ people with disabilities in visible or high traffic places. Is that bad? Because it would definitely contribute to peoples' minimal experience with diabilities, and thus their not thinking about how to react to abuse if it happens in front of us. We hardly even know people with disabilities unless we're related to them, you know? Well, you don't know, because you are mother of someone with a disability. But what I mean is, it's tough to really know to come up with a plan of how to react when people in wheelchairs are 'supposed' to take the bus in off peak times, and employment opportunities for those with the ability to be employed are generally not in the public eye. IME. If we worked and lived more closely with one another, we would have more experience, and be better prepared to advocate when needed.
    So we agree that there needs to be more education and advocacy, but I disagree that the root of the problem is an inability to see the person. I would say it's inexperience in how to (a) relate, and (b) advocate.
    I mean, you're the expert! Not I. But most people are good people, and mean well, and treat others well the vast majority of the time unless they are tired or overwhelmed, and even then would come to the aid of someone in trouble, if they feel equipped or know how.
    I stopped once to see if a girl with Down's was lost because she was walking along the sidewalk alone and crying. But it turns out she just had allergies. I think she was in her twenties? But I thought, you know, if she were lost and I were her mother, I'd want another mom to make sure she was okay instead of some guy who might not have the best in mind for her. So I asked her, and we had a nice conversation, and that was that. This was after the bus incident, which I really think helped me think about people with disabilities and how I would approach them in the future. I had not had ANY experience with watching someone be verbally abused until that day on the bus, so I was SO SHOCKED that I didn't know what to do.
    How many of those people in the grocery store had ever seen someone be abused like that before? Probably none. So even though they couldn't articulate it, I'm pretty sure they just did NOT believe their eyes and did NOT know what to do. It doesn't condone what happened, but I hope in my heart that if it happened to them again next week, they would have more of a game plan. I *think* they would, but maybe not.

    my email is melissavose at yahoo dot ca
    I won't make you phone me long distance from East US to West Cda: email is best!

  4. my comment was too big to publish. Did you get it emailed to you? I hope so, because it was lost from my screen when I tried to publish it....

  5. I also thought that if it were the CLERK abusing the bagger, people would be more inclined to step in. As customers, we feel we have more rights to demand a certain amount or type of service. But towards other customers we don't have that same right.
    My feeling is that the news group that created this setup weighed the scenario to be as shocking and emotionally impactful as possible. Which is what it is--we need to be shocked and think about things like this. But is it REALITY? Which is what they are saying they represent. And both people with real disabilities in the store said they have certainly encountered unkindness and abuse and it was painful for them. So it represents some of reality, but I think it's a bit swayed. You know? The perspective is designed to be shocking, and make us question humanity's goodness. I don't like being swayed like that, you know? Anyways. Its still an important message, and my toddler needs a diaper change so I really have to go!