Joe and I were leaving Blade Runner and had become ‘toilet runners’ heading quickly over to the loo. I was pushing hard, the carpet is thick, and as I went into the entrance to the toilets, which had a large entryway, a young man with Down Syndrome came out. He saw me, his face lit up, and he waved.Before I could stop and respond, I heard a voice behind me, say, “Stop it! He’s disabled. You are just like everyone else. Don’t keep waving to people like that.”
I shit you not.
(Which is a weird thing to say given where I was.)
I turned in my chair to see her and said, “people like that?’ She wasn’t even slightly embarrassed or uncomfortable about what she had said. “My son is completely integrated, I don’t want him to live a life of disability.” She grabbed his arm, and off they went. In an act of defiance he turned around to look at me, even though we was being propelled onward, and took his free hand and waved goodbye.
In that moment I loved the spirit in that kid. I loved his willingness to defy unfairly set rules. I loved his ability to be warm towards those he’s been told have no worth. I admired him.
He has a rough road ahead of him. He is what his parents don’t want. He is disabled. He will live a life where disability his disability will matter, both in terms of what it means to how he is in the world, but also because of who he is in the world. He needs a different more from his parents than his mother seems to be thinking. She might write a blog post about her son and how much more time and more effort it takes to raise him and to teach him. But he needs a different more.
He needs to learn about his difference, what it means and what it doesn’t. He needs to learn how to live in a world that will exploit him with pretense of kindness and hurt him with the intent to shame him. He needs to learn to find safe harbour. He needs to learn of his own community and to value others who, like him, fight the same fights, have the same agenda for social change, have the vision of a world where the difference of disability is simply another difference amongst many differences. He needs to value his own difference, he needs to see his disability as what it is, just another way to be.
And he needs to learn that a life of disability is just a life of disability. It’s possible to live that life, love that live and prosper in that life. People with intellectual disabilities are doing what no one thought possible when people who had limited imagination had control of the goal setting and the dream determination.
But he has courage.
And he has kindness.
And he has the willingness to be non compliant when non compliance is necessary.
I wish him well. I wish his parents well too. I hope that one day they will look at their son and realize that they can be proud of all of him. All. Of. Him.