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Gimp Militia, Ladies' Auxiliary reporting 
1st-May-2008 08:48 am
 My BFF brooklynitetells me today is Blog Against Disablism Day.  My beautiful girlfriend uses a wheelchair, and she calls disability rights activists "the gimp militia."  I sometimes refer to myself as a member of the ladies' auxiliary.  I'm friends-locking this post because I don't know how she is going to feel about it.  If she asks me to take it down, it may disappear at some point today.   She says it's fine, so here it is, unlocked.

Here are some things I would like people to understand about my girlfriend and her disability, and me, and our life together.  There are some questions in here, too, because there's a lot of stuff I don't understand about not-yet-disabled people.

1. My girlfriend's legs don't work very well, but her eyes, ears, brain, and vocal cords work just fine.  Please speak to her directly.  I am not her interpreter.

2.  I am also not her aide, keeper, or caretaker (if anything, she's mine).  We help each other, because lovers and partners do that.  Let me say that again:  we help each other.  

3. I'm not her sister or her kind helper or her friend.  She is not my mom.  We are lovers.  Yes, people with disabilities have lovers.

4.  Sometimes my girlfriend needs help, with a parcel or a heavy door or a steep hill.  As do we all.  If she needs help, she'll ask.  As I said before, her vocal cords work great.  Please don't just start "helping" without asking first. 

5.  Taking hold of someone's wheelchair and starting to push without asking is just as rude, weird, and scary as putting your hands on someone's back and shoving her down the street.  Don't do it.  Just don't.  

6.It really sucks when you invite us some place and you have given absolutely no thought to whether it is accessible.  That really makes me want to hit you.  But I'm a pacifist, so I won't.  Lucky you. 

7. If you own a bookstore, restaurant, natural foods store, gym (!), or alternative healing center (!!) and your place of business has steps, you are losing the business of a lot of people.  What the fuck is your problem?  Please stop acting so fucking surprised when I ask you about your accessibility plan.

8. You can buy a portable ramp for a couple hundred bucks.  That's all it takes to turn a building with one or two steps into a building that is accessible.  Why don't you have one?

9.  If no one has asked you about accessibility before, it's probably because they took one look at your establishment and realized there was no point.  Maybe they've asked 500 times before and have gotten tired.  That's not an excuse for you not to have a plan.

10.  You "progressive," "alternative" people who have your offices, centers, and houses of worship in buildings that aren't accessible?  Not so progressive, actually.  There's a reason I never show up at your fucking meetings.

11.  It's usually the funky, alternative, independent places that aren't accessible.  That's why we shop at the soulless mall.   That's why we shop at Whole Foods instead of the groovy natural foods store with the reggae music and the incense.  That's right, funky business owner -- the mall is more radical than you are.  Do you understand now why I think you're an asshole?

12.  "It's a historic building, so we don't have to" is not an acceptable answer when I ask you why your business is not accessible.  It doesn't get you off the hook.  It just makes me think you're an asshole.    I think a lot of people are assholes. 

ETA:  I can't believe I forgot to write this one, because it's actually the first one that came to mind:

13.  She isn't "confined to a wheelchair" or "wheelchair bound."  In fact, she gets out of her wheelchair quite frequently -- like every morning, when she gets in her car to drive to her job.   That's right.  You heard me.
Comments 
1st-May-2008 01:48 pm (UTC)
No need to friendslock this post, babe. It's great! Maybe I'll write something myself, later. I love you.
1st-May-2008 01:55 pm (UTC)
Mmmkay. I love you too! Have fun with the rest of the sexy librarians today.
1st-May-2008 04:07 pm (UTC) - Excellent
Anonymous
great post. best part: "my girlfriend needs help, with a parcel or a heavy door or a steep hill. As do we all." because the worst thing about ableism is that line they always want to draw, rather than recognizing that all humans have an easy time with some things and a more difficult time with others.

- Ira Socol
http://speedchange.blogspot.com/
1st-May-2008 05:14 pm (UTC) - Re: Excellent
Thanks! Interesting blog you've got there. In my former life, I was a special education lawyer (representing kids and their parents, not school systems).
1st-May-2008 09:34 pm (UTC)
Anonymous
Brava! Mighty fine. I'm quoting you in my best-of roundup.

--Penny at Disability Studies, Temple U.
http://disstud.blogspot.com
2nd-May-2008 10:47 am (UTC)
Thank you!
1st-May-2008 10:12 pm (UTC)
Anonymous
Great!
2nd-May-2008 10:48 am (UTC)
Thanks for visiting!
(Deleted comment)
2nd-May-2008 10:47 am (UTC)
Thanks. I say take the discounts where you can get them. People with disabilities get shit on so much, any little perks like that are just a drop in the bucket toward equality.

This year we joined a CSA that has required volunteer hours. If you don't want to volunteer, you have to pay extra. My partner can't do most of the volunteer jobs that are available, although there is some stuff she can do. Also, since we co-own a single share, I could technically do all the required hours myself. I wonder how they would handle it if disability prevented us from volunteering entirely.
2nd-May-2008 10:17 pm (UTC)
YES. i always feel so unqueer and uncool in my mall-bought clothes but HELLO, the the thrift shops aren't accessible. not just the lack of ramps, but the fact that A.) i'm supposed to see in bins that are sometimes over my head and B.) i have to have the arm strength go through them? in the mall all you have to do is wheel by.

anyways, cool post.
3rd-May-2008 01:21 am (UTC)
Anonymous
I love this very much!

"That really makes me want to hit you. But I'm a pacifist, so I won't. Lucky you."

hahahahaha

Thank you for a wonderful entry.

-- Sara (http://www.saraarts.com, http://movingrightalong.typepad.com)
(Deleted comment)
3rd-May-2008 01:05 pm (UTC)
Thanks! I liked your post a lot, too -- those infuriating situations were so painfully familiar.
3rd-May-2008 01:08 pm (UTC)
Thanks for all the love, everybody!
4th-May-2008 04:11 pm (UTC)
Ha! Yes on all that!
4th-May-2008 07:32 pm (UTC) - Spot on!
Anonymous
I don't have a LJ account, so I have to post as anonymous, but I just wanted to say that this is wonderful: The Ladies Auxilary rocks, apparently!

5th-May-2008 03:14 am (UTC)
<3 I'm so glad I read this. I, too, have a lover with a disability and I think what really offends people about our relationship is the whole idea that OMG! disabled people have sex! And they *like it*. (The oft-had opinion that I'm with him because his family has money is probably influenced by that. Cuz heaven knows there's no way I could be with him because he's hot.)

Two posts I have that are similar to yours: My contribution to BADD and our recent experiences at a meeting of a political party that thinks it's all that and a bag of chips because gosh, it talks about "disabled people" in its propaganda. (In actuality, their meetings aren't as accessible as they think, and their website is atrocious.)
5th-May-2008 12:42 pm (UTC)
Whoa, that's ugly. I haven't had anything that blatant happen, but people tend to assume she is my sister or my mom (!). She's older than me, but not *that* much older! It's like if we're together in public, I must be taking care of her. We couldn't just, like, be on a date or something. Part of it is the assumption that lesbians don't exist/don't have sex, and when you put disability on top of that, whoa.
5th-May-2008 09:27 pm (UTC)
10. You "progressive," "alternative" people who have your offices, centers, and houses of worship in buildings that aren't accessible? Not so progressive, actually. There's a reason I never show up at your fucking meetings.

Probably not very useful to you and your girlfriend, unfortunately, but I work for a religious org (Liberal Judaism, we have approx 34 synagogues in the UK) and we are working bloody hard on this. Unfortunately, the 'we' there is mainly me, a rabbi or two, another member of staff and a member of one of the congregations who basically kicks arse (but as she does not have much use of her legs, this is done possibly using some form of arse-kicking aid... Man, I totally have to invent one of those) - the head honcho types are theoretically supportive of improving things, and they have been amazingly supportive as employers of me, A Disabled Person, but like most able-bodied people, they basically struggle to Get It. A growing number of our synagogues are sort-of-accessible (in that it's fairly possible to get a wheelchair into the building, and maybe even out again, but e.g. the only non-stepped way into the building involves much more walking for non-chair-users or there's no support for people with sensory impairments or there's access into the building but not to the bimah i.e. stage thingy where people get called up to read from the Torah* etc) but for instance our head office, which is where we hold most meetings and which also has a synagogue downstairs, is completely fvcking inaccessible by wheelchair, except perhaps it might be possible to get in through the back door to the car park, but noone's really sure and that's no good if you don't arrive in a car as the ramp down to the car park is hard to even WALK down... And unfortunately, it is going to be a complete nightmare getting that changed, because when the building was rebuilt a decade or so back, they designed it in such a way that there is NO WAY of fitting a useable wheelchair lift or even a stairlift, or at least no way I can figure. We are going to get an accessibility audit pretty damn soon, though, as the other member of staff who is particularly pushing this stuff is essentially In Charge of the building.

13. She isn't "confined to a wheelchair" or "wheelchair bound." Have you not been doing up the straps tight enough? ;)

*my own synagogue, which I just joined, has recently had a wheelchair lift installed so that people can go up to the bimah if they are not in fact able to climb stairs - and people complained! They didn't want one fitted because it wouldn't 'look nice'. If I ever find out who those people are, I will have to be restrained from stamping on their feet. In cement boots. With knives in.
6th-May-2008 12:41 pm (UTC)
Our shul is accessible to get into but there's one step up to the bimah. I'm solving that problem by donating a ramp.
6th-May-2008 12:44 pm (UTC)
Hurrah!
7th-May-2008 12:44 am (UTC)
I love "gimp militia"! I keep wanting convention ribbons that say ArCane Commando, to give to all my cane using friends.

And getting into all the hip places? Even someone like me, walking but gimpy, has trouble. Fortunately, web shopping doesn't care as much...
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