Friday, September 11, 2009

People who do it right.

So I have gotten a lot of great comments and emails in the past few days, many of which have posed the question "So Eva, what do I do?" So I am going to tell you a story about people who do it right.

Before it closed (so sad) I used to always go to a place called Highland Grounds


(yes, there is a step there but they also had an accessible entrance too) I loved their food, atmosphere, etc. As I kept showing up, the waitresses became more and more comfortable with me. One day the manager walked up and said "Eva, can you show me how I can communicate with you?" So my aide gave a little explanation and we tried it out. She gradually brought every waitress over to see the demonstration. So eventually I could just roll in and order myself. They didn't make a huge deal out of it and the desire to learn was absolutely sincere. It was just like learning my communication was the next obvious step since I came there so much. This might not seem like a big deal to you but to me it meant that they saw me as a person worth speaking to and not just 'that disabled girl'.

The difference between this and what the barista did was enormous. Now, the barista was being nice and this was the first time she'd seen me and I understand that she didn't have time to get to know me, so I will give her that. But talking to me that way at our first meeting is like when someone yells "HI! HOW ARE YOU!" to a deaf person. Its instinct but you've got to get over it.

I hope this story helps.


  1. I think sometimes able-bodied people who have never really needed to learn about disability fall into a weird place where they're not sure what to do, and that ignorance, in turn, leads to a lot of the weirdness that you get (people offering you gifts, condescending waves, etc.).

    It's really good that some people seek out education. That should be a policy at every place of business.

  2. What a bummer that the place closed!

    Thanks for this blog. I've subscribed to the feed.

  3. Eva, what do you think the tipping point was? How much did you have to go there for them to feel comfortable with you and do you think if the manager had been a different person with a bit less interest in working with you it would have happened at all?

    Readers wanting to reverse engineer your experience might need to know your take on these things. Is it just time and repeat exposure (less fright on their part) or sensitive people on the other side or a bit of both?

  4. Now this is a delightful story!

    It really is a pity that the place closed. I love places that are personal like that. If only they stayed open rather then getting eaten up by franchises.

    Though, I, like the above reader - am curious about what you thought the tipping point was.

    And out of curiosity, would you find it rude if someone asked how to communicate with you during their first conversation with you/your aid?

    Or would it depend on how the question was asked?

  5. >.> Oh, annnnd, uuh, yeah, that kind of explains things better. <.< Sorry for being a jerkwad earlier.

  6. What an awesome story. Eva I am so grateful that you are willing to educate and talk about your experience. I live in a community that is pretty white/able body homogeneous. In my 26 years, I could count on one hand the number of times I have met/interacted with a person who has a disability. Each time I have felt very awkward because I did not want to unknowingly hurt or offend the person.

    I realize that it is not your "job" to educate people, but thank you for the time and effort you are taking to express these ideas.

  7. This is great. I grew up in schools ( in the 1970s) where there was almost no integration. I had no idea how to approach someone with a disability, or learn how to talk to them. Now I have a 3-year-old, globablly delayed daughter who is entering preschool with severe speech delays. I wonder how she will make herself understood in the world. Thank you --as someone else posted--I realize it's not your job to educate us, but this helps more than you know.

  8. That is awesome! Good for them! Oh, but how sad that places like that sometimes don't make it. Why do our favorite things disappear?

  9. I wish people could/would take more time to really try communicating. They just assume the person can't "talk" so why bother? My daughter is deaf-blind so it gets really tricky for her to communicate. Most people talk to me, her mom, and when they do I say, "Ask her." She has enough hearing with her hearing aids in to understand if the person takes their time. People are surprised that she can respond, and I always thank them for talking TO her, not at her. I think people just get uncomfortable, so I try to support them while they figure out how to communicate with my daughter. I love it when I can step back and let them talk on their own.

  10. Сенкс за инфу, почитал с интересом.

  11. This is my first visit and won't be my last. What an articulate tyke you are ! Entertaining and generally an all round good egg !

    Keep up the excellent work. KP

  12. I am thrilled to have found your blog. And it just gives me chills to think how wonderful and powerful blogging can be...not just for 'normal' people (lol) but for everyone. ANYONE. It removes all pretense and prejuidice...and all that remains is thought and intent. We can see who YOU REALLY ARE without getting all caught up the drooling, or wheelchair or heck even a bad hair day! I think you are just wonderful....and I appreciate having an opportunity to learn from you. I want to know how to behave. I want to be sensitive...but not like I am pouring out pity. You know? It is a fine line.....and I am working to be better everyday. And with your insight....I just might get there.


  13. @Keith: Wow, you really missed the mark. That's a pretty painful comment if you actually take the time to read the blog. Eva is 26 and she has finished college. So, while you are obviously trying to be kind you are really an example of what the average person on the street is doing wrong.

  14. Interesting blog, I'm glad I found it. I can relate to some of the issues - I used to date a lovely lesbian who happened to be wheelchair bound. I can remember helping her steer it through the crowds at the Party in the Park at buckingham palace some years ago, late in the dark, and some incredibly crass woman stepping backwards into Jo, almost tripping, then turning to look and saying to me/no-one in particular/anyone except Jo, "You know they really ought to give them lights... and a bell or something". Unreal! Keep up the blogging, you've got a very readable style.

    All the best,