[tabi] FW: article,people with disabilities say equipment is part of their space

  • From: "Joe Plummer" <joeplummer@xxxxxxx>
  • To: <tabi@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Tue, 11 Jan 2011 07:40:36 -0500


JP ( Joe Plummer)

> This came from the Seeingeye-l list; we have been discussing interference 
> with our dogs by the general public, especially people claiming to be 
> "animal rights activists."
> Subject: article,people with disabilities say equipment is part of their 
> space
>>A friend sent this, and I thought some of you might find it interesting.
>> Rebecca and Eagle
>>    People with disabilities say equipment is part of their space
>> Monday, November 15, 2010  02:52 AM
>> By
>> Deborah Kendrick
>> To touch or not to touch is the question that was raised again recently 
>> by a brochure
>> I received from a nonprofit organization representing people with 
>> disabilities. "Avoid
>> .?.?. touching their wheelchair, scooter or cane," the document stated. 
>> "People with
>> disabilities consider their equipment part of their personal space."
>> The truth is that like everything else, there are degrees of 
>> appropriateness within
>> the touching range - "good touch" and "bad touch" - and it's an issue 
>> that warrants
>> exploration.
>> On one hand, there's a certain negative assumption at times that says the

>> usual rules
>> don't apply when the person to be touched had a disability. People in 
>> wheelchairs
>> often find themselves being patted on the head. Blind people suffer being

>> grabbed
>> by complete strangers who want to "help" them across the street.
>> Most people with manners can figure that out - if you wouldn't pat or 
>> grab a nondisabled
>> person in a given situation, chances are that in the same situation it's 
>> also inappropriate
>> to put your hands on a person with a disability. What's a little trickier

>> is the
>> issue of mobility equipment.
>> Maybe this can be made clearer by trying to see equipment from the 
>> perspective of
>> the person who uses it. If you haven't had any personal experience with 
>> external
>> mobility devices - a wheelchair, scooter, guide dog, crutches - these 
>> things can
>> look like awkward encumbrances. To the person with the disability, 
>> however, they
>> are symbols of real liberation.
>> If you can't walk unaided, a wheelchair, rather than being a point of 
>> confinement,
>> is a tool of liberation. If you can't stand for long periods, a scooter 
>> or crutches
>> can bridge the gap between missing out and fitting in.
>> If you can't see obstacles of stairs in your line of travel, a guide dog 
>> or lessons
>> with a white cane are often perceived as a new set of wings.
>> Many people with disabilities say that a piece of equipment is an 
>> extension of themselves.
>> A wheelchair is not just a chair, it is that part of "the person" that 
>> facilitates
>> movement. A crutch is not a bit of metal or wood, it is the part of "the 
>> person"
>> that makes standing or walking possible. A guide dog is not just a pet, 
>> but that
>> part of "the person" that makes independent travel a reality.
>> When you put a mobility device in the context of "extension of the 
>> person," knowing
>> when to touch and when not to becomes easier. Would you straighten a 
>> stranger's collar?
>> No? Then hands off the wheelchair. Would you fondle an acquaintance's 
>> jacket? No?
>> Then hands off the dog.
>> Mind you, I'm talking about strangers or mere acquaintances here. As an 
>> extension
>> of personal space, "good touch" of a person's mobility equipment is fine 
>> whenever
>> it would also be appropriate to touch the person.
>> I often put my hand on a friend's wheelchair while chatting - in the same

>> way that
>> I might put my hand on another's arm. I do not, however, lean on their 
>> chairs for
>> support, hang my coat off the back, or set my drink on their lap trays - 
>> any more
>> than I would lean on or throw my junk on the lap of a nondisabled friend.
>> When friends greet my dog, it is another way of greeting me. When people 
>> I barely
>> know or don't know at all stroke his head or make kissing noises at him, 
>> it is a
>> violation of my personal space.
>> One more word on touching: Please don't let any of this discussion of 
>> equipment and
>> personal space inhibit you from showing real physical warmth toward 
>> people you care
>> about. A friend who uses a wheelchair once told me that he thought people

>> were more
>> reluctant to take his hand in friendship or hug him because of "all that 
>> metal" surrounding
>> his body.
>> I remember a time when I met a woman who had been a longtime "friend" on 
>> the phone.
>> When she realized, upon meeting me, that I couldn't make eye contact, she

>> was stunned
>> for a moment. Then, on impulse, she replaced the eye contact with a huge 
>> hug.
>> It was a good decision.
>> Deborah Kendrick is a Cincinnati writer and advocate for people with 
>> disabilities.
>> dkkendrick@xxxxxxxxxxxxx

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