Monday, November 30, 2009

Disableism Impacts Families

image Other than myself, Destruction has had the hardest time dealing with the changes that have occurred with my body.  To the best of my ability, I have attempted to hide moments of extreme pain in order not to hurt him.  Like any other little boy, he wants his mother to be a part of his life. This means that he loves to see me on the sidelines cheering at his hockey games or watching him on the camera as he works out at the dojo.  This has been incredibly difficult because neither of these places are particularly accessible for me.  I have struggled and purposefully lived with hours of pain to watch his hockey games or tolerated the comments of ignorant parents to watch him in the dojo.

I have reached the limit of my endurance.  I love my little boy more than I can ever reasonably express but the rudeness and disableism have reached the point of hurting me both emotionally and physically.  Last week he had to take his photos for karate and though my presence was not needed, he specifically asked that I accompany him.  I braved the cold on my scooter and travelled to the dojo with him.  When the unhusband opened the door for me to get in, the room was crowded but that did not stop people from cutting right in front of me to enter.  As I sat in the doorway expecting people to move to allow me access, they decidedly turned away and stood where they were. 

Each and every time that the room is crowded, I am made to feel as though my right to be there is non existent because my scooter takes up more room than someone who is standing. This behaviour is clearly passed on to their children, who think nothing of acting as if I am not there when they cut in front of me.  This is a dangerous thing to do because I could quite easily run over a foot.  Rather than taking the risk of hurting someone I remain inert, thereby; allowing them to move around me as though I am not a living breathing human being.  They see a scooter, they do not see the person on the scooter.

Were it not for my child, these are situations I could avoid.  Obviously I have no need to go to a dojo when standing for more than fifteen minutes is difficult and  I am not a lover of hockey though I am Canadian.  This denial of access effectively limits my ability to parent and could potentially reduce the time we are able to spend together as a family.  The issues with youth culture are constantly being blamed upon parents, even though we socially do not support families.  This is particularly true in terms of parents of color.  I find it extremely galling that my investment in my child is being thwarted by disableism.

Today, I am going to call the dojo and express my concerns.  I do this without the slightest expectation that a noticeable change in behaviour will occur.  Each and every time I have spoken about access issues or obviously disablest behaviour, it has been treated as though the issue is my problem, rather than a failure of the facility or the able bodied person.  To lead an active an engaged life as a differently abled woman, more often than not is treated as though I am expecting special treatment.

This choice that is being forced upon me is impossible.  I must either tolerate physical pain at the hockey arena or emotional abuse at the dojo, if I want to be a part of my child's life.  It’s ironic that disabled mothers are often viewed as incompetent but where is the discourse surrounding the ways in which our parenting often occurs under extremely difficult situations? I suppose, of all the people on the planet that Destruction and his brother Mayhem provide the best reason for me to want to rise above, but the constant pain requires more of a super human effort than I believe that I am capable of. 

I am not the White suburban mom with the mini van and the coach purse, that we have come to idealize as the perfect mother. My body readily reveals my frailties, however I am a mother, with two little boys that I not only love but am responsible to raise to maturity. Each time I stand for an hour in the freezing cold and cheer his hockey team, or deal with the rudeness at the dojo, it is an extreme expression of my love for him.  I cannot help but wonder if able bodied parents had to be in this position 4 times a week the way that I am, how long such conditions would be allowed to stand.  I am a minority in three different ways and as such no matter how loud my voice, someone somewhere always seems to find a reason to dismiss it.