Posts filed under ‘Mobility Issues’
- What is your experience with disability? — Do you have disabilities? Do you have loved ones who live with disabilities? Do you work with people who have disabilities? 5)What are some significant moments/events in your life that connect to disability? — For example, you can talk about hearing a diagnosis for the first time, meeting a role model, learning something important that helped form your understanding of disability, etc.
I discussed my various disabilities in the previous post, in this one I’ll focus on my broader disability awareness. When I was first told about Asperger’s Syndrome, I rejected the label- it sounded too negative. Even so, as a kid, I went to Camp Courageous of Iowa, with kids will all different types of disabilities. Even though, at the time I didn’t really identify as disabled and thought that the doctors were “lying”, I came to better understand and empathize with people with disabilities from that experience. After we moved to Minnesota, I and my brother both attended Camp Discovery or Camp Hand-in-Hand, both run by the Autism Society. Being around other kids with Asperger’s, I felt “normal” for once, and came to see it as a set of differences that are a disability in broader society. I reclaimed it as part of who I was, and made it my own, rather than a file that belonged to doctors and my parents. These camps are held at sites owned by Courage Center in Golden Valley, and there are sessions for many types of disabilities, for both children and adults. Since there were several sessions for Deaf people, many of the staff are Deaf, and each cabin had a Deaf counselor. We learned some sign language as one of the camp activities, as well as informally, and I know one camper who took classes in ASL at St Paul College and was planning on getting certified to be an interpreter. I’m not sure if she has finished with this training. Anyway, I think the interaction between autistic and Deaf people is particularly interesting, since autistic people tend to have trouble reading and using body language, learning sign is a great way for us to learn body language and emotional expressions more systematically and explicitly, and it has potential as a form of communication for non-verbal autistics. Having adult autistics working at the camp- each cabin had one called a Mentor was also amazing, and I become a Mentor myself and worked as one for 7 sessions over the years.
I attended Augsburg College, which has great programs for students with both physical and learning disabilities. I will talk more about accommodations in a later post. But anyway, in some respects college was like a grown-up version of going to the Courage camps- I had many friends with various types of disabilities, particularly in Queer & Straight in Unity and we helped each other when needed, and you didn’t feel like you constantly needed to explain yourself and your needs- a little here and there yes, but for the most part these differences were pretty well understood and accepted. All the roommates I had throughout college had Asperger’s or other learning disabilities, and one roommate used a wheelchair. Having him as a roommate definitely raised my awareness of accessibility issues, we’d go around, plan various social activities and realize “Oh, crap, Levi won’t be able to get in to that place!”
Questions from 30 Days of Mental Illness Awareness-
6: Do you have a family history of mental illness or mental health issues? (Caelesti’s note: I’m including anything that falls in the DSM-V, such as developmental & learning disabilities)
Ah, yeah you could say that! Especially on my mother’s side- I call the range of symptoms they have “the O’Leary spectrum”. My dad has Attention Deficit Disorder & depression (including Seasonal Affective Disorder) , and my mother has Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and a mix of anxiety and depression (I’m not sure of specific labels) My brother is on the autism spectrum, also has ADD and depression. Several of my mother’s siblings and some of their children have various mixes of depression, anxiety, obsessive compulsive symptoms, AD/HD, and one person is bipolar & dyslexic. My mother’s fraternal twin sister is very calm and clear-headed in an odd contrast to the rest of her siblings!
Just today someone popped up on the Hellenion-Midwest list, introducing herself and expressing interest in Hyperborean Demos. She mentioned that she is deaf and uses a wheelchair. Naturally, she inquired if the place we were meeting was accessible. I had to write her e-mail telling her that it is not, as the room we meet in is on the second floor it being a small business/building, there is no elevator. But we as a group can talk about moving the meeting so she can attend.
I find it ironic that we had moved to Eye of Horus, a metaphysical store to attract more people and yet we’ve attracted someone who can’t go there. Actually, Magus Books is also inaccessible, being in a basement. Granted, folks can order products online from both of them, indeed they both get most of their business that way, but these places serve as social hubs, both informally and as sites for meetings and classes. Evenstar in St. Paul is probably the most accessible, but even it is in a rather small space that might be tricky to navigate in a chair.* Really the reason for this is these businesses generally are just trying to break even and can’t afford to be picky about the space they are in. Likewise with Pagan groups- we are usually too young and small to have our own spaces, so we meet in homes which are often inaccessible or in coffee shops, bookstores or any other place we can “squat” or rent. But I still think we should make whatever effort to hold Pagan meeting and ritual in accessible spaces and accommodate other disabilities.
In my experience Pagan communities are no more or less aware of disability issues than the rest of society. I ran into this in another Pagan group, that had a “temple” that was actually in the attic of the leader’s apartment. When I pointed out the problem, he said “Well, I’m sure you and the other students would be willing to carry a fellow student up the stairs if need be.” He just didn’t get it. People who use wheelchairs want to be dignified and independent adults they don’t want to be carried up stairs! Not to mention it could be dangerous. This supposedly wise and progressive leader of mine then later proceeded to buy a house and move the temple to the second floor of that. Among other reasons, that was one thing that made me lose a lot of respect for him, and I left the group around that time.
In a private group, it’s one thing, but in religious groups that claim to be open to the public it is imperative that we make ourselves available to all kinds of people. If we do not then we might as well say that some people are more important than others.